Sheriff calls man's death murder

January 27, 2003 11:00 pm

By AMY LINDBLOM

Tuolumne County Sheriff's Department investigators are searching today for two people seen fleeing an apartment where a man was killed and his girlfriend critically wounded early yesterday.

Deputies and Department of Justice criminalists spent all day yesterday searching for more clues at the Jamestown apartment building.

Sheriff's Sgt. Chris Harrison said he is treating the crime as a murder and attempted murder after his initial investigation and having spoken with witnesses.

Donald Graham Hopkins, 34, was found dead yesterday morning in a Preston Lane apartment, and his girlfriend, Melissa Yvonne Berry, 29, was found critically injured with a gunshot wound to her head. She was taken to an undisclosed Modesto hospital. Harrison said she underwent surgery to remove a bullet from her head. She has been able to talk to investigators. "From that we have developed some leads that we are tracking down," Harrison said.

Her prognosis for recovery is good, he said.

The couple's young daughter was at the apartment at the time of the murder, but was not a witness and was not harmed, Harrison said. The girl, said to be about 4 years old, was placed in protective custody by county child welfare services.

Deputies were called to the second-story apartment building on the 10200 block of Preston Lane about 1:30 a.m. yesterday after a neighbor called 911 to report loud noises and yelling coming from the apartment.

Deputies found the apartment front door kicked in. Hopkins was lying in a pool of blood in the apartment.

Little information about the case has been released by the sheriff's department. However, by mid-morning yesterday, criminalists were seen dusting the apartment doors for fingerprints, the apartment building was cordoned off by yellow crime-scene tape and only building residents were allowed to come and go in the parking lot.

Harrison would not say how Hopkins was killed; he would only say an autopsy was scheduled for this morning. Harrison also declined to comment on what type of gun was used to shoot Berry.