A bullet recovered during the autopsy of a 60-year-old Mount Airy woman has provided investigators with a significant piece of evidence in her death, Surry County Sheriff Graham Atkinson said Tuesday.
See Vu, of Escape Lane, was found dead Monday afternoon in the rice paddies near her home.
Witness accounts indicated Vu had been shot, which was confirmed by an autopsy performed at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center Tuesday morning.
“Our victim died of a single gunshot wound,” Atkinson said, adding that the bullet was recovered.
“We are working with the SBI now to further study that projectile and see what information it might yield for us,” he said. “We’re really encouraged that we found it intact as well as it is.”
A theory that the victim may have been killed inadvertently by a stray bullet, such as from a hunter or someone target practicing, had been circulated when Vu’s death was first announced Monday afternoon.
“We never focused entirely on that, but if it was accidental, we thought someone might come forward if they knew we wouldn’t be looking for criminal intent,” the sheriff said.
No one came forward in the 24 hours since the incident occurred, “not one call,” Atkinson said.
While the stray bullet theory is still a possibility, “the odds are just astronomical,” against it, said the sheriff.
It’s not hunting season and the geography where the incident occurred makes it unlikely, he said, describing the location as flooded rice paddies of changing elevations to one side and a thickly wooded area surrounding the other.
Vu was working about 200 yards from the road when she was shot, “maybe more,” he estimated.
“It’s not impossible it’s just not probable,” he said. “You don’t want to start anything with a preconceived notion.”
One thing of which investigators are certain is, “somebody shot this woman,” Atkinson said.
Experts with the SBI should be able to determine the size, type, caliber and “maybe even the brand,” of the projectile, Atkinson said, information which could prove fruitful to the investigation.
Vu’s death is the fourth suspicious death investigated by the sheriff’s office since January, and the fifth locally.
The sheriff acknowledged the cluster of apparently unrelated events was unusual for the area.
“It really stretches us,” he said. “We’re already down one detective spot.”
Many officers pulled 18-hour shifts processing the most recent crime scene.
“They’ve come through like champs,” he said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Surry County Sheriff’s Office at 336-401-8900.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.