(PRETORIA, South Africa) — Olympian Oscar Pistorius wiped away tears on Monday shortly before a South African court formally indicted him on charges of murder and illegal possession of ammunition in the shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
His trial is scheduled to begin on March 3, 2014.
Pistorius, 26, dubbed “Blade Runner” for his prosthetic legs, was officially charged with murder inside a Pretoria courtroom Monday morning after a six-month police investigation into the shooting ended last week. The indictment comes on what would have been Steenkamp’s 30th birthday.
Prior to the hearing, Pistorius wiped away tears, held hands and appeared to pray with his brother, Carl, and sister, Aimee, in the courtroom. Pistorius wiped a tear from his sister’s face after the brief hearing adjourned.
When the case was called, Magistrate Desmond Nair asked Pistorius how he was doing, to which he replied, “I’m fine, under the circumstances.”
Before he walked out of court, Pistorius had another private word with his sister and again wiped a tear from her face before he was escorted out of the courtroom by his relatives.
The office of South Africa’s national police commissioner said last week in a release that detectives, forensic experts, ballistics experts, psychologists and technology experts worked on the case and are confident that they have the evidence to convict Pistorius.
If found guilty, Pistorius could face a life sentence with a minimum of 25 years.
The case will now be sent to the High Court in Pretoria, where a judge will preside over the trial and pronounce the athlete innocent or guilty.
Pistorius says he shot Steenkamp by accident, mistaking her for an intruder on Valentine’s Day earlier this year at his home in Pretoria, South Africa.
Prosecutors say Pistorius knew Steenkamp, who had been sleeping in the same bed with him, was in the bathroom and he intended to kill her. They allege the Olympic and Paralympic sprinter took a moment to put on his prosthetic legs before he fired four shots through the closed bathroom door. Prosecutors contend the shooting was fueled by a heated argument.
“Some of the state witnesses heard a woman scream, followed by moments of silence, then heard gunshots and then more screaming,” according to the indictment.
Pistorius maintains that he was not wearing his famous carbon-fiber blades when he fatally shot Steenkamp.
The most telling evidence in the trial might be in records on cellphones found at Pistorius’ home and through examination of the toilet cubicle door through which Pistorius shot four bullets. The angle or trajectory of the bullets could show whether Pistorius was standing on his stumps when he fired his weapon, as he says, or whether he was on his prosthetics, as the prosecution maintains.
“What the state is going to do, they want to show that he is a violent person, a gun-toting hot-head is the portrait they are going to paint of this man,” Barry Bateman, a reporter for Eyewitness News Pretoria, told ABC News.
Meanwhile, Steenkamp’s grieving friends remembered her Monday on what would have been her 30th birthday.
“When she walked into a room, it was just warmth and it really was like the sunshine just walked into the room,” Kim Myers told a South African TV station overnight.
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