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Woman dead in apparent killing

A preliminary hearing has been set for a North Fork woman, after she was arrested on suspicion of killing her elderly neighbor, a member of the Mono tribe, over the weekend.

“This is a serious and important case,” said Madera County District Attorney David A. Linn. “We will not tolerate elder abuse in any form.”

At her arraignment at the Madera County Superior Court, suspect Mary O’Keefe, 64, was ordered Tuesday afternoon by Judge Mitchell C. Rigby to appear at the Madera County Court in Bass Lake on Thursday for a bail review before her preliminary hearing, to be held Jan. 5.

O’Keefe was arrested Saturday for the murder of Bonnie Hale, 76.

According to Madera County Sheriff’s Department Cmdr. Bill Ward, Hale, a former North Fork Mono Tribal Council member, was found dead on the porch of her home on Road 225 by her son, Bobby Hale Jr., earlier that morning. An autopsy revealed the cause of death as being asphyxiation, brought about by blunt force trauma to the neck.

After the discovery of the body, deputies were dispatched to check on O’Keefe. Scratches were reportedly found on O’Keefe’s face, indicating that she had been in a struggle.

“Sheriff’s detectives were called to the scene and began a homicide investigation,” Ward said. “Evidence at both locations indicated that the deceased female had been killed by the other woman,” said Ward.

Ward has also stated there are no other suspects in this case, and that evidence points to the suspect working alone.

“Based on evidence we have at both scenes, and interviews, we are confident we have the only suspect in custody,” Ward said.

O’Keefe was booked in Madera County Jail on murder charges. According to friends and family, the two had shared past disputes.

Hale, a widow, had run an auto body shop with her husband, Robert, in North Fork, and later a pellet store for wood stoves. Hale was also heavily active in her community.

“She was involved with everything,” said Madera County Supervisor Tom Wheeler, who knew her. “She didn’t just sit at home and complain — she went out and got things done.”

Wheeler, a family friend, coached Hale’s grandchildren in soccer.

O’Keefe’s current bail has been set at $1 million. According to Linn, he will be pursuing elder abuse enhancements as well.

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