A former North Fork Rancheria Mono Tribal Council member is dead after allegedly being killed by her neighbor in North Fork.
According to the Madera County Sheriff’s Office, Bonnie Hale, 76, was found unresponsive by her son, Bobby Hale Jr., the morning of Dec. 17 on the porch of her Road 225 home. The home is located about a half-mile south of the old North Fork mill site. Investigators said Hale had injuries indicating she had been in a fight.
At the same time, deputies received a call to check on Mary O’Keefe, 64, who lived about a quarter mile away. Investigators said O’Keefe also had injuries, and she was booked into Madera County Jail on suspicion of murder. O’Keefe’s booking photo shows her with multiple scratches on her face. She remained in jail Tuesday.
“This is very uncommon for people of that age to be in a physical altercation that ends up in a death,” Sheriff’s Cmdr. Bill Ward said. “We are still trying to figure out the events that led up to this homicide.”
Ward believed the women knew each other and said there was evidence of a fight between the two.
Investigators believe O’Keefe walked from her home to Hale’s home and confronted her. Those close to the family said Hale has had past disputes with O’Keefe.
District Attorney David Linn said O’Keefe was charged with first degree murder and an ehancement for elder abuse.
“This is a serious and important murder case, thanks to the great work of the Madera Sheriff’s and Coroner’s Office,” Linn said. “We will move forward swiftly in our prosecution. My office will not tolerate elder abuse in any form.”
O’Keefe was arraigned Tuesday in Madera County Superior Court, and plead not guilty to all charges. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Jan. 5 in the Sierra Division at Bass Lake. If found guilty, O’Keefe faces life in prison.
Hale was elected to the tribal council in 2010, where she served as a secretary. She also served on the Central Valley Indian Health board of directors.
Tom Wheeler, a longtime North Fork resident and Madera County District 5 Supervisor, said the loss of Hale was hard to believe.
“She was so respected in town,” Wheeler said. “It just does not make sense to me. She was so respected in the community. I don’t know if she had an enemy except for this stupid woman who killed her.”
Charles Altekruse, the North Fork Rancheria’s director of public affairs, said in a prepared statement the tribe is “deeply shocked and saddened” by Hale’s death, and will choose a time to honor and respect her life in accordance with Native American traditions and customs.
“For now, however, the Tribal Council would simply like to express our deepest love, sympathy, and support to Bonnie’s family as well as to all the tribal citizens, North Fork neighbors, and countless others that Mrs. Hale touched in her many years of service and care to our community,” Altekruse said. “We all share heavy, hurting hearts at this news of Mrs. Hale’s untimely passing, and ask all to respect the privacy of the Hale family, tribe, and tribal citizens as we begin the process of gathering facts and grieving this terrible, tragic event.”
The investigation is ongoing.
Fourth mountain murder in four months
This is the fourth murder in Eastern Madera County in the past four months, with arrests made in three of the cases so far.
Around midnight Nov. 15, George Taylor-Windsor, 26, was sitting in the back seat of a Ford truck as he and at least two other people were traveling south on Highway 41 after leaving the Pines Resort.
At a Nov. 29 preliminary hearing, a witness said for unknown reasons, Taylor-Windsor started attacking other people in the truck with a knife which caused the driver, Reid Kallenberg, to lose control just south of Bass Lake Road (222) near River Falls Road. Upon arrival, deputies with the Madera County Sheriff’s Office found Jessica Nelson, 23 of Foresthill, dead in the truck from multiple stab wounds. Kallenberg was hospitalized with several stab wounds.
Taylor-Windsor’s trial is scheduled to begin 9 a.m. Feb. 6 at the Sierra Division of Madera County Superior Court in Bass Lake.
On Oct. 22, Craig Anthony Fetty, 28, and Tiffany Dambrino, 20, were arrested for allegedly murdering Dennis Dolan, 68, at his home in Ahwahnee. The two, both from Ahwahnee, await a preliminary hearing.
On Aug. 6, Jason Jerome Henderson, 45, was stabbed to death during an altercation in the lower parking lot of the Silver Creek Shopping Center in Oakhurst. No arrests have been made.