Prosecutor could seek death penalty in January slaying

February 25, 2003 11:00 pm

By AMY LINDBLOM

Two men charged with murder and attempted murder in a Jan. 27 shooting at a Jamestown apartment complex have pleaded not guilty.

Steven Michael Myers, 27, and Derek Michael Wooden, 20, entered their pleas with their court-appointed attorneys in Tuolumne County Superior Court on Monday.

And because Donald Hopkins, 34, was slain during the course of a robbery, Tuolumne County District Attorney Donald Segerstrom has said he might seek the death penalty. The state's felony-murder rule allows prosecutors to ask for capital punishment in cases in which a killing occurs during the course of another felony, such as armed robbery.

If Segerstrom decides to seek the death penalty, he must make that decision before the men go on trial. Segerstrom said because certain aspects of the case are still being investigated, he did not want to comment on the death penalty issue.

Myers and Wooden are accused of killing Hopkins by shooting him once in the head. Hopkins' girlfriend, Melissa Berry, 29, was also shot in the head inside the couple's second-floor Oak Hills apartment on Preston Lane, where they lived with their 4-year-old daughter. The child was not injured in the shooting.

Berry survived, having undergone surgery to remove a bullet from her head. She has been released from the hospital and is cooperating with investigators, Segerstrom said.

Segerstrom said he believes the crimes occurred while Wooden and Myers were robbing Hopkins and Berry of drugs and money. The gun or guns used in the shootings have not been found, Segerstrom said.

After the hearing, Myers and Wooden — who were shackled even though they appeared via a television camera from the jail — shook hands as they stood up to go back to their cells.

Myers was arrested five days after the shootings at his Jamestown home. Wooden was arrested the day after the shooting, when deputies found him asleep in a car parked on private property off Old Wards Ferry Road.