By Chad Nance and Carissa Joines
WARNING: This story contains adult language that may not be appropriate for some children.
Ardmore neighbors have reported seeing some strange things around the corner of Magnolia Street and Westover Drive. Odd events like a random pet bunny hopping around the yard, a dog with frazzled fur laying forlorn in the shade, and the repeated flash of blue lights.
The blue lights of police have been spotted at 700 Magnolia often, like when Cory Prince allegedly threatened a young woman with death, brandishing a starter pistol and a machete. This wasn’t the first time police had been to 700 Magnolia since Cory “Yung” Prince and his mother Shelia Gooden moved in. There are neighborhood accounts of regular sightings of the police, both day and night, likely for minor incidents that did not result in police reports. There are confirmed reports of another disturbance where Cory allegedly brandished the machete at Danny Benson, and an incident report from a police call as recently as August 18th listed as a “Non-Criminal Call for Service.” (It is ironic how much “cop hater” Cory Prince seems to call the police for help.)
700 Magnolia was a well known as a place to party and had become the momentary center of gravity for a weird Camel City sub-culture of wannabe “thugs” who are largely unemployed, working-class 20-somethings and teenagers who alleviate their boredom by living by the rules of Grand Theft Auto in the real world. Those rules are simple: no rules apply to the players. Cops, other citizens, and their peers are there to be reviled, mocked, and exploited if necessary. The kids talk of “loyalty”, “honor”, and “family” in barely literate, punctuation free sentences full of bile and profanity all over facebook and yet their “Yung Prince” ran out of the back door when real danger arose, leaving his mother to die at the end of a gun.
Party houses like 700 Magnolia are rotating locations in this subculture. Whether it is a house or apartment one of the kids has managed to hold on to, or a house where a permissive parent is complicit, these “gangstas” will party at a location until the police have been called so many times that it can’t be used again. Some of the kids who had gone to parties at 700 Magnolia told CCD that there was always a lot of weed and pills there. One source said, “I saw a stripper that I knew to be a crack-head there.” This “stripper” was said to be in a sexual relationship with Cory in exchange for drugs. No one has said that Shelia or even Cory were dealing or using crack at 700 Magnolia, but many have stated that pills were ever present and people known to do crack were a part of the party scene in the home. According to one source Shelia allegedly “abused pills” and Cory sold some from time to time.
It was at 700 Magnolia that Cory threatened to chop up two young ladies with a machete and got arrested for brandishing a starter pistol as if it were a real gun. It was at 700 Magnolia that Cory would allegedly force Danny Benson’s girlfriend into a sexual relationship in exchange for housing. It was to 700 Magnolia that Danny Benson, Steve Assimos, and Anthony Nyguen would go on the night of October 10th. The reason the three boys showed up there is still unclear, but whether they were there to take care of Cory once and for all, make a point, steal something, were shorted in a drug deal, or simply because they were bored, it is likely that their intentions were bad ones, and certain the outcome was grim.
Shelia Pace Gooden was shot three times. She was shot once in the leg. Her killer(s) sent another round through her eye and the last round was pumped coldly into her skull execution style. Not only did they then leave the house with a television… Shelia’s murderers took the rings off of the woman’s dead hand according to a source close to Gooden’s family. Before considering the human beings behind the mug shots of Gooden’s accused killers it is important to take a moment and consider the viciousness, brutality, and cold cruelty of her murder.
22 year-old Danny Benson is a middle class kid originally from Phillipsburg, New Jersey. His parents David Doyle Benson and Joy Lynn Benson have indicated that they intend to stand by him throughout whatever comes next. The family appears to have moved to Winston-Salem in 2004, when they bought their home on Stockdale Place, and Mr. Benson works at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Everyone CCD talked to for this story spoke warmly of Danny Benson. They describe a sweet kid who really liked to smoke weed and had a romantic bent toward girls that often got his heart broken. One thing that is abundantly clear from his facebook postings and from those who knew Danny “Dan the Man”… he was bored out of his skull most of the time and was always “looking for something to do.”
Benson has a curious rap sheet before the current charges of burglary, kidnapping, and Murder 1. In 2008 he was charged with Defacing a Public Building. Kid’s stuff that was dismissed under deferred prosecution, meaning some deal was struck with the DA. In 2010 he was charged with traffic violations – Failure to Reduce Speed and Reckless Driving. Both charges were dismissed by the DA’s Office. Also in 2010 he was cited for Failure to Stop at a Red Light and Failure to Report an accident. Both charges were dropped by the DA’s Office. Finally in 2010 he pled guilty to a “Level 5- DWI”, paid $455.00 in fees, and got 12 months of unsupervised probation. Before the end of 2010 Danny had been found guilty of 2nd Degree Trespassing and ordered to stay away from the Ferrell Court Apartments off of New Walkertown Rd. In 2011 Danny was found guilty of simple possession of marijuana along with paraphernalia.
It may have been the pot charge that led to Danny’s difficulties with getting a job, a problem that according to friends and his facebook page, continued up until the time of Shelia Gooden’s murder. Like many 21st Century twenty-somethings with no formal education and no real prospects for employment, Danny seems to have drifted, punctuating a “boring” existence with booze, a little weed, and partying with friends- including Cory Prince. Nothing in his prior criminal record would indicate that Danny was more than a rebel without a clue who had some tension with his parents and really liked to “party” in an attempt to bring excitement to an existence that he saw as drab and uneventful.
Steve “Stevie” Assimos’ background looks even less like that of a thug or a killer for that matter. He was born in Tarrant County, Texas in the Fort Worth/Arlington area. According to the Texas Department of Health Bureau of Vital Statistics, Steve was born on November 22, 1991 and his parents are listed as Julia Arrington Nicholson Assimos (also known as Jan) and Dean George Assimos. In 1991, both Assimos’ were well established in Winston-Salem. This would support information CCD was given by a source indicating that Steve Assimos was adopted and brought here to Winston-Salem by the couple.
Steve Assimos’ grandfather on his mother’s side, Frank Cole “Nick” Nicholson Sr., went to Duke University, was a flight officer/instructor in WW2, and was the second pilot hired by Piedmont Airlines in 1948. Nicholson served as Chief Pilot until he retired in 1970. Steve’s grandmother Audry was a flight attendant for Piedmont Airlines. In 1976 their daughter, Julia, known around Winston as Jan, founded the successful Winston-Salem company New Leaf- which maintains plants and flowers for office buildings and other professional spaces.
The paternal side of Assimos’ family is less local, but even more storied. His paternal grandfather George “Gus” Assimos was a Perdue graduate, a United States Navy Veteran and a restaurateur in Chicago who owned Orlando’s, and was on the Chicago Board of Trade. When he died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2004, his children, including Steve’s father Dr. Dean Assimos, endowed a lecture series in George Assmimos’ name at Northwestern University.
Steve’s father, Dr. Dean George Assimos, is an internationally known researcher, the former vice chair of urology at Wake Forest University, and currently serves as the inaugural chair of the Department of Urology at the University of Alabama. Dr. Assimos received an undergrad degree from Purdue and in 1977, his medical degree from the Loyola Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago. Dr. Assimos came to Wake Forest University in 1984 and would later marry his wife, and Steve’s mother, Jan Nicholson.
Clearly Assimos’ background could not be more dissimilar than the other people involved in the murder at 700 Magnolia. He grew up in Buena Vista with a privileged upbringing. At the same time his mother was founding a successful Winston-Salem company in 1976, the memory of Shelia Gooden’s cop-killer Daddy’s rampage was still fresh in the mind of local residents, as he was being tried for his crimes. While Shelia Gooden was battling her own demons of drug addiction and systemic poverty, Steve Assimos’ parents were working to construct a successful life for themselves and their children.
Stevie does have a minor criminal record. In 2012, he was arrested for possession of less than ½ an ounce of pot. This charge was dismissed with deferred prosecution by the DA’s Office. It is a stomach churning drop down Assimos’ rap sheet from simple possession to First Degree Murder, First Degree Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon, First Degree Burglary, and First Degree Kidnapping. His parents have indicated through his attorney David Freedman that they intend to stand by their son during his trial and its result.
CCD talked to several kids who have partied with Benson and Assimos at the 700 Magnolia house and other places around Winston-Salem. One young woman said that Steve was a “sweet guy” who often talked about his love for his family. None of the people we talked to, however, knew who Assimos’ family was or where he lived. The reasons Steve Assimos played so close to the vest are not known, but having talked to people who knew Anthony and Cory it was probably for the best that they had no idea what kind of financial resources and wealth Assimos came from.
CCD has spoken with several people who knew all three of the young men charged with Shelia’s murder (including two relatives of Gooden’s) and they all point to one reason Stevie Assimos and Danny Benson would have been in 700 Magnolia St. the night of October 10th… Anthony Nguyen. From what little can be gleaned in their arrest warrants, both Danny and Steve have told the police the same thing- Nguyen pulled the trigger.
Anthony Nguyen continues to be more of a cipher than the other young men. Someone by his name and with the same birthday was born in Santa Clara County, CA on October 15th 1991 to a mother with the maiden name of Truong. Someone with the same last name, currently living in Wilmington, NC, is listed as a cousin on Anthony’s facebook page, and the two have exchanged comments on what are obviously family photos online. According to sources he was living with a girlfriend in an apartment complex behind Forsyth Tech at the time of Gooden’s murder. CCD knows the name of the girlfriend, but is choosing to withhold her identity. With only a slight trail left online, most of what CCD knows about Anthony is what has been told us by those who knew him.
A look at his facebook comments shows a young man obsessed with guns and in love with his girlfriend.
According to those who know him, and corroborated by online posts, Anthony’s obsession with guns includes gun sales. One bit of static between Cory and Anthony was a gun that Anthony allegedly sold to Cory for $100.00… a gun that didn’t event function. CCD talked to other sources who indicated that Anthony had tried to sell them guns, and we had one long interview with a man who told us that Anthony stole an AR-15 from his truck one night when he was visiting Glendare Park Apartments. According to our source he reported the theft of the rifle, the case, and two fully loaded magazines to the WSPD. “Anthony and this dude named Elmo took ‘em. I told that to the police, but they didn’t seem too concerned that a guy like Anthony might be running around the city with an assault rifle.” Anthony allegedly tried to sell the same rifle to a friend of the guy he stole it from.
The following words by someone who used to consider him a friend offer more context on Anthony and the world these kids live in.
“I met him [Anthony] back in Davie County. Real big parties out there. That’s where I used to live. There was a house on Duke St. where we partied every Thursday. We called it “Beer Pong Thursdays.” Kids would show up. It went from 20 people, to 50 people, to 80 people. I mean cars would show up and be lined up and down the street. The cops didn’t even mess with us anymore, you know what I’m sayin’. One night, a bunch of Winston kids had come out there, and it was Sean something, Anthony, some other Mexican kid, and it was like two others. Well they came in the party and, uh, there was one room that was off limits in the house and that was homeboy’s daughter’s room. She wasn’t there, but people weren’t allowed in there. Well one of the Mexican guys was in there and he had lost his phone supposedly. He started blaming everybody and the next thing you know all five of them’s in an uproar. ‘We’re gonna f**k this place up.” Blah, blah, blah. Anthony punched a hole in dude’s wall and started talking all this sh*t and the next thing you know Sean pulled out a gun. He was out front yelling ‘F**k this!” Blah, blah, blah. Then I came out and I’m like “Look- y’all get the f**k out of here. We’ll find your phone- give it back to you, know what I’m sayin’. Well dude pulls out his gun and I grab him – push him to the car. Then his homeboys come out and I’m like “Get him outta here now.” and that ended that.”
That man later moved to Winston-Salem, where four years later he would allege that Anthony stole his rifle. Just months later, Anthony would be in lock-up for the murder of Shelia Gooden.
“As I got to know him, he stabbed one of my homeboys at a party. Over some stupid sh*t. They didn’t report it because one of them was a drug dealer and Anthony’s a wannabe.” A source told CCD. “Ever since I’ve known Anthony he’s always been like, ‘I’m Korean gang this. I’m this, that and the other.’ He‘s all about ‘I‘m hard.’ I never really liked him. I was at this one party in Winston and I talked to someone else he stabbed. He was always quick to pull a knife or something. This is maybe like four or five years ago.”
According to the arrest warrants, Anthony was taken into custody without incident from the apartment he shared with his girlfriend. The same warrants state that the WSPD found both Benson and Assimos at the Assimos home in Buena Vista. Neither Danny or Stevie offered any resistance, and both have already given statements to the arresting officers indicating that Anthony Nguyen pulled the trigger and killed Shelia Gooden as her son Cory ran away. They both admitted that they broke into the home, searched it for pot, and stole a television on the way out of the door after Gooden was shot. The warrants say nothing about the missing rings that Shelia’s family claims were taken off of her body after she was murdered.
Three gunshots changed dozens of lives in an instant. Some lost a mother, friend, co-worker, or spouse. Others lost their sons, brothers, and boyfriends. All of the anger, pain, tumult, and finally death was over nothing in the end. There are no winners, no losers, no heroes, and there will be no true resolution or reckoning that will ever make up for the massive hit taken by the families involved. In the end the most tragic part is simple and heart-breaking. Shelia Gooden died and three young men just beginning their lives are locked up… over absolutely nothing at all.
CCD will continue our coverage of the 700 Magnolia St. murder when new information becomes available or after the accused have their initial hearing on November 7th.
You can read Part 1 of this report HERE and Part 2 HERE.