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Murder suspect cleared for trial

A Mulberry woman charged with first-degree murder has been deemed fit to stand trial.

Investigators allege Patricia McClure-Hajek, 59, shot Sharon Richards, 54, around 6:30 a.m. May 1, 2012, at the Arkansas Welcome Center off Interstate 40.

On Monday, Public Defender Ryan Norris requested a jury trial for McClure-Hajek, who is being held in the Crawford County Detention Center on $500,000 bond.

Circuit Judge Gary R. Cottrell told McClure-Hajek the trial will be scheduled for the week of Aug. 5 or Aug. 12. McClure-Hajek has until a mandatory appearance July 22 to enter into a plea-agreement or the trial will be scheduled, Cottrell said.

First-degree murder is a Class Y felony, punishable by 10 to 40 years or life in prison.

Richards, an employee of the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, was working at the site when the incident occurred. Witnesses said she was shot when she approached McClure-Hajek’s pickup.

When Van Buren police arrived at the scene, they found Richards’ body on the ground behind her AHTD pickup. She had been shot twice in the neck.

Holding a handgun, McClure-Hajek approached an officer holding a handgun. She dropped the gun without resistance and was transported to Sparks Regional Medical Center for treatment of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the leg that was apparently accidental.

Before being booked into jail, McClure-Hajek told investigators she carried a .22-caliber Ruger as protection because she thought someone was after her. She was in a vehicle accident before coming to the rest stop, where she stayed all night.

McClure-Hajek said Richards approached her once, told her to move her truck, saw the gun and retreated, only to return a short time later.

Although she did not remember shooting Richards or herself, McClure-Hajek said she might have fired on the AHTD worker out of fear. As for the self-inflicted wound, she said one of her dogs jumped onto her lap, which might have made the gun discharge into her leg.

In a forensic evaluation report, Dr. Paul Deyoub of Little Rock said he found McClure-Hajek has the capacity to understand the proceedings against her and has the capacity to effectively assist in her defense.

“At the time of the examination, she did not have a mental disease or a mental effect,” Deyoub wrote after conducting the evaluation on March 13. He said she understands the “criminality of her conduct” and the “capacity to conform her conduct to the requirements of the law.”

Deyoub’s report states McClure-Hajek was born and raised with her two sisters in upstate New York and graduated from Kingston High School. After living in Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona and Texas, she used her savings to buy five acres in Franklin County in 2011.

The report stated she was living in a steel outbuilding with no running water, electricity or gas while trying to build a permanent house.

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