A woman accused of shooting and killing a highway department employee at the Arkansas Welcome Center along Interstate 40 near Van Buren is free on a $500,000 signature bond pending Dec. 2 trial.
Patricia McClure-Hajek, 59, is charged with the first-degree murder in the death of 54-year-old Sharon Sue Richards. McClure-Hajek is accused of shooting Richards, an Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department employee working at the site, May 1, 2012. McClure-Hajek was sitting in her pickup when she allegedly shot Richards.
On July 19, Crawford County Public Defender Ryan Norris filed a motion to release McClure-Hajek, arguing Arkansas law required her release because she was incarcerated for nine months following her arrest and not yet brought to trial.
As of July 31, Norris said in a separate filing that even with the time period between Oct. 26 and April 4 excluded for speedy trial purposes, McClure-Hajek was incarcerated for 287 days. The defense sought a mental evaluation for McClure-Hajek on Oct. 26 and the court was notified the evaluation was complete April 4.
Using a different calculation for excluded time, Prosecuting Attorney Marc McCune argued McClure-Hajek was incarcerated for 234 days for speedy trial purposes.
In his Sept. 9 order, Cottrell agreed McClure-Hajek was incarcerated for more than 270 days since her arrest, even with excluded time deducted, and ordered her release with conditions.
McClure-Hajek is prohibited from leaving the state, violating any laws and may not possess a weapon or involve herself in any “riotus or disorderly conduct.” She must also report to the Crawford County Detention Center each Friday before 5 p.m.
Under Arkansas law, the state has one year to bring a defendant to trial, unless the defendant is in custody. If a defendant is in custody, he or she must be brought to trial within nine months. Delays created by defense requests don’t count against the nine-month requirement.
Once the judge determined Norris’ calculation was correct, McCune said he had no choice but to grant the motion.
McClure-Hajek signed a $500,000 signature bond and was released Sept. 9.
Van Buren police found Richards’ body on the ground behind her AHTD pickup. She had been shot in the neck twice.
McClure-Hajek approached an officer holding a handgun, which she dropped without resistance. She was transported to Sparks Regional Medical Center for treatment of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the leg that was apparently accidental.
McClure-Hajek told authorities she was armed with a .22-caliber Ruger for protection because she thought someone was after her. She said she had been 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 the truck, saw the gun and retreated, but she returned a short time later.
McClure-Hajek said she did not remember shooting Richards or herself, but that she might have fired on the AHTD worker out of fear. She said she might have accidentally shot herself in the leg when one of her dogs jumped onto her lap.
In April, a forensic psychologist filed a report with the court declaring McClure-Hajek suffered from no mental disease of defect at the time of the shooting and has the capacity to assist in her own defense.
First-degree murder is a Class Y felony punishable by 10 to 40 years or life in prison.