Three indicted in fatal shooting of woman

Benson, Assimos and Nguyen (left to right)

Benson, Assimos and Nguyen (left to right)

FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — A Forsyth County grand jury indicted three men Monday for first-degree murder and other charges in connection with the fatal shooting of a 43-year-old woman in the Ardmore neighborhood last October.

Authorities said that Daniel Aaron Benson, 23; Steve George Assimos, 22; and Anthony Vinh Nguyen, 22, broke into Shelia Pace Gooden’s house at 700 Magnolia St. about 11:30 p.m. Oct. 11, 2013, held her against her will and stole a flat-screen television valued at $200. Prosecutors allege that one of the men pointed a .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol at Gooden during the incident.

The grand jury handed down indictments Monday for first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, first-degree kidnapping and robbery with a deadly weapon against all three men. Additionally, the grand jury also found a sentencing enhancement against Nguyen for displaying a firearm during a felony.

From court filings, it appears Forsyth County prosecutors believe that Nguyen was the shooter. Assistant District Attorney Ben White filed notice Tuesday of the state’s intention to seek the death penalty against Nguyen. White is asking for a hearing, known as a Rule 24, so that a Forsyth County judge can consider prosecutors’ request to seek the death penalty.

David Botchin, Nguyen’s attorney, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

It doesn’t appear that prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Assimos and Benson. Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Gooden, who was born in Mocksville, was shot in the right eye, according to a report from Forsyth County EMS that was included in the court file. She worked at Waffle House on Jonestown Road, according to her Facebook page and a manager at Waffle House.

In a notice of aggravating factors filed in Nguyen’s court file, prosecutors allege that Nguyen occupied a position of leadership or dominance of other participants in the commission of the offense.

According to search warrants filed in the case, Benson and Assimos told authorities that Nguyen was the one who fatally shot Gooden at her home.

Police allege in arrest warrants that the three men broke into Gooden’s house while Gooden was there with her son, Cory Joe Prince. Winston-Salem police responded after Prince escaped through a back door and called 911. He told authorities that Benson and Nguyen, whom he recognized, burst through the front door with guns and that five shots were fired.

Winston-Salem police called members of the SWAT team because they believed that two men were still in the house. Police tried to establish contact with someone inside but failed. The SWAT team then entered the house and found Gooden’s body. She had been shot in the head and in the body, according to search warrants.

David Freedman, Assimos’ attorney, said that his client has cooperated with authorities throughout the legal process.

“It’s very tragic,” he said. “Mr. Assimos greatly regrets whatever role he may have played in this.”

Assimos is the son of Dr. Dean Assimos, who was formerly the vice chair of the urology department at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Steven Assimos’ mother is Jan Assimos, who in 1976 helped found A New Leaf, an interior landscaping business.

Julie Boyer, Benson’s attorney, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

All three men are in the Forsyth County Jail, with no bond allowed. No trial date has been set.

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