Charges dropped against one of two murder suspects

April 11, 2003 12:00 am

By AMY LINDBLOM

Accused of killing a Jamestown man in January, Steven Myers was released from the Tuolumne County Jail yesterday with all charges against him dismissed.

Derek Wooden, 20, still faces murder charges in the shooting of Donald Hopkins, 34, on Jan. 27.

Hopkins and his girlfriend, Melissa Berry, 29, were each shot once in the head at their Preston Lane apartment, but Berry survived and has been able to tell detectives what happened that night.

Tuolumne County District Attorney Donald Segerstrom said two people entered the couple's second-floor apartment about 1:30 a.m. that January night and that the shootings occurred as the intruders stole methamphetamine, marijuana and money.

Hopkins died immediately. The couple's 4-year-old daughter, who was asleep at the time, was uninjured. Neighbors called 911 and witnesses told sheriff's deputies two people were seen fleeing from the apartment after the shootings.

Berry also has said there were two intruders, Segerstrom said. The sheriff's department will continue seeking another suspect.

"We have detectives working on this case 24 hours a day," Segerstrom said.

Because the shootings occurred during a home-invasion robbery — considered a special circumstance — Wooden could face the death penalty if convicted.

Segerstrom said Berry has repeatedly and steadfastly identified Wooden as one of the shooters, even when she was first taken to a Modesto hospital the night of the shooting.

The prosecutor said Berry is recovering, and her memory continues to improve.

"She is very certain she saw Wooden at the apartment, but less and less certain on Myers," Segerstrom said. "So unless I can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, then I have to let him go."

Myers' lawyer, defense attorney Donald Martell of Sonora, has not returned calls seeking comment.