Jamestown man gets 34-year sentence

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By AMY LINDBLOM

A 21-year-old Jamestown man, who insists he didn't do it and doesn't know who did, was sentenced yesterday to 34 years to life in state prison for murder and attempted murder.

After an eight-day trial last month, a Tuolumne County Superior Court jury found Derek Michael Wooden guilty of killing Donald Hopkins, 34, and critically wounding Melissa Berry.

Both were shot in the head after at least two masked men broke into the couple's Preston Lane apartment on Jan. 27 to steal drugs that Hopkins and Berry were trafficking.

Under California sentencing rules, Wooden will be in prison until at least 2037, when he will be 55.

Berry, 30, survived the shooting and was the prosecution's key witness.

She testified, at times hysterically, that Wooden was one of the intruders who broke down her front door, entered her bedroom in the early morning after Super Bowl Sunday, then shot her and Hopkins while her then 4-year-old daughter slept.

Wooden was arrested Jan. 28 on Wards Ferry Road, after a homeowner found him asleep in a truck parked at the end of his driveway. The deputy who arrested Wooden on a probation violation did not know he might be involved in the Jamestown shooting.

The connection to Wooden wasn't made until Berry talked to investigators a few hours after doctors removed a bullet from her brain. That's when she named "Moody" as one of the shooters.

A day later, Berry clarified her slurred words and picked "Woody" Wooden's nickname out of a photo lineup.

Berry also picked another Jamestown man out of a photo lineup. Steven Michael Myers, aka Scrappy, who was arrested Jan. 31.

In April, charges were dropped against Myers when Berry told investigators she could not be sure he was involved. But she has never wavered about Wooden. She said Wooden lifted his ski mask from his face and clearly looked at her as she lay shot on her bedroom floor.

Wooden insists he was not in the apartment, had nothing to do with the shooting or robbery and was nowhere near Jamestown the night of the murder.

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The Union Democrat
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