California Woman Pleads Not Guilty in Shooting over Access Road

Vista, CA — A 63-year-old De Luz woman accused of shooting a neighbor and trying to shoot his wife in an ongoing dispute over an access road pleaded not guilty Wednesday to two counts of premeditated attempted murder.

The defendant, Alyce Ann Copeland, is also charged with two counts of assault with a semi-automatic gun. She faces up to 28 years to life if convicted.

The shooting took place Friday in the rural De Luz community north of Fallbrook.

Woman, 63, accused of shooting neighbor

Deputy District Attorney Cal Logan said the victims, Thomas and Kathleen Wessels, were driving down the access road that runs through a parcel owned by Copeland’s sister when they encountered Copeland waiting for them. She was sitting in a chair in the middle of the road, sheriff’s officials said last week.

When Thomas Wessels got out of the car and spoke to her, Copeland pulled out a 9 mm semi-automatic gun and shot him in the abdomen, Logan said. He said Copeland also turned the gun on the wife and tried to fire, but the gun jammed.

The wounded man wrested the gun from Copeland and pistol-whipped her, and his wife then drove him to the hospital, authorities said last week. He remained hospitalized as of Wednesday.

After a brief hearing, Vista Superior Court Judge William Gentry set Copeland’s bail at $750,000. She had been jailed without bail since her arrest on Friday.

The shooting appeared to be part of an ongoing feud between Copeland and Thomas Wessels. In April, Copeland sued Wessels in small claims court, accusing him of harassing her and striking her with his car during a November confrontation on the access road.

Wessels in turn accused Copeland of intentionally stepping in front of his SUV, blocking his passage. In court documents, he said he stopped and she sat on the bumper. Her actions, he wrote, were “effectively trapping me in that location” for perhaps a half-hour.

In May, a court commissioner ruled against both sides, finding each had failed to prove their case.

A larger civil suit is pending in Superior Court filed by Catherine Harker and David Bender, believed to be Copeland’s sister and brother-in-law.

In September 2014, the couple sued the Wessels and several other neighboring property owners over who is allowed to use the access road.

In February, a judge ordered that all property owners could access the road during the duration of the case, which is still pending.

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune