South African Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius on Monday was formally indicted for murder over the shooting death of his model girlfriend at a court in Pretoria.
The star athlete walked into court with his head bowed, his face tight. He linked hands with his brother, Carl, and sister, Aimee. The three prayed fervently for several minutes, seemingly oblivious to the media scrum around them, as cameras snapped and flashed madly.
But then it was time to face the music. The court officially charged the double amputee with murder and scheduled his trial for March 3 through March 20.
The indictment also charges him with unlawful possession of a firearm, after investigators found unlicensed ammunition at his home.
The trial will examine what happened the night of February 14, when Pistorius shot dead his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, at his upscale Pretoria home.
The prosecution has accused Pistorius of premeditated murder. But Pistorius says he mistook his girlfriend of three months for an intruder and did not mean to shoot her four times through a locked bathroom door.
The prosecution provided an exhaustive list of 107 witnesses, many of them police and neighbors. Also on the list are members of the Pistorius family, including his father, uncle and sister, and several of the runner’s ex-girlfriends.
The proceedings are sure to be followed closely by local and international media, who have packed the small, stuffy courtroom for each of Pistorius's appearances.
Prosecution spokesman Medupe Simasiku said the state is confident in its case. He added he was legally bound to not divulge too many details.
“Inasfar as the confidence of the case, let the court decide as to how strong is our evidence, but we believe we have everything in place to make sure this case runs smoothly," Simasiku said.
On Monday, members of what Steenkamp called her “Johannesburg family,” the Myers family, noted that Monday’s appearance coincided with an important event in Steenkamp’s life.
A lawyer for Gina Myers, Ian Levitt, read a statement as family members stood somberly nearby.
“Ironically, the 19th of August, 2013, would have been Reeva’s 30th birthday, a day that should have been a celebration of her life," the lawyer said. "Instead it will now mark a court appearance relating to her untimely passing six months ago.”
The case resumes in March. Pistorius will remain free on bail until then.
Pistorius is known as the "Bladerunner" for his carbon-fiber prosthetic legs. He was the first double amputee to compete against able-bodied opponents at the 2012 London Olympics.