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At a court hearing in Pretoria on Monday, a judge indicted Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius on the charge of premeditated murder over the death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
South African Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius appears at the Magistrate Court in Pretoria on August 19, 2013.(STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)
PRETORIA, South Africa — Oscar Pistorius, the South African double-amputee sprinter charged with murdering his girlfriend, wept and prayed with his siblings while appearing in court Monday.
During a brief appearance at Pretoria magistrate's court, the Paralympian received a copy of the indictment and was told that his trial would begin March 3, 2014, and continue until March 20.
He will remain on bail until then.
The indictment states that Pistorius "did unlawfully and intentionally kill" Reeva Steenkamp at his house in Pretoria just after 3 a.m. February 14. He was also charged with violating South Africa's firearms control act.
If convicted of premeditated murder, he faces life imprisonment and at least 25 years without parole.
For nearly 20 minutes, while waiting for proceedings to begin, Pistorius held hands and prayed with brother Carl and sister Aimee, pausing to wipe away tears.
Pistorius admits shooting Steenkamp but denies that it was murder, claiming that he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder. She died after taking bullets to her head, elbow and hip.
The prosecution argues that Pistorius meant to kill her. Witnesses have testified that they overheard the couple arguing that evening, though the defense disputes their account.
"Some of the State witnesses heard a woman scream, followed by moments of silence, then heard gunshots and then more screaming," the indictment states.
Further, the indictment says that "an 'error in persona' will not affect the intention to kill a human being" — i.e., even if Pistorius believed he was firing at a burglar, he was still shooting to kill.
The state has listed a total of 107 witnesses it may call against Pistorius, including neighbors, friends of Steenkamp and one of the accused's ex-girlfriends. His siblings Carl and Aimee Pistorius are also on the witness list.
Steenkamp, a model, would have turned 30 on Monday. Best friend Gina Myers attended the hearing, and alongside her sister Kim and mother Desi Myers paid tribute to Steenkamp in an emotional statement read outside the courtroom.
Since her death, "not a day has gone by when anyone who ever came into contact with Reeva Steenkamp hasn't thought about her," the statement said. "Now, more than ever, Reeva's memory lives on."