The grandson of a Winston-Salem woman shot to death by her then-87-year-old neighbor has been added as a plaintiff in an amended wrongful-death lawsuit.
On July 15, 2020, the grandson, then 15, was in the living room when Winston-Salem police said Hermon Lowell Aycoth shot his grandmother, 54-year-old Karla Ragsdale Essick, multiple times.
Aycoth, now 88, was charged with first-degree murder in Essick’s death along Cool Springs Road, but in March, a Forsyth County judge ordered Aycoth involuntarily committed for the rest of his life after determining that Aycoth had dementia and was mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Kimberly R. Ragsdale, Essick’s sister and the executor of her sister’s estate, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Aycoth on Aug. 12, 2020 in Forsyth Superior Court. Ragsdale’s attorney, Brian C. Focht filed an amended complaint on April 16 that added Essick’s grandson as a plaintiff.
The lawsuit said that the grandson has suffered severe emotional distress as a result of “seeing his grandmother murdered in his presence.” The lawsuit said he also suffered harm because he had to run for his life and hide from Aycoth outside his grandmother’s house. According to the lawsuit, Aycoth was just feet away from where the grandson hid in a hedgerow after the shooting. Aycoth eventually walked back to his house where he stayed while the grandson called the police, the lawsuit said.
Focht said Friday that the lawsuit is still pending and no trial date has been set.
Alan Ruley, an attorney representing Aycoth in the lawsuit, said both sides have been working on a possible resolution to the lawsuit.
“We’re deeply sorry for what happened,” he said Friday.
In March, Judge David Hall of Forsyth Superior Court ordered Aycoth involuntarily committed for the rest of his life after presiding over a hearing. During that hearing, Mark Hazelrigg, a psychologist at Central Regional Hospital, testified that Aycoth was mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Aycoth, he said, has dementia and that he has had a series of mini-strokes that were caused by cardiovascular issues. He also was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Hazelrigg said that based on his evaluation, he doesn’t think Aycoth has any chance of regaining his mental capacity to proceed to trial.
According to the lawsuit, the day before the shooting, Aycoth had gone to Essick’s house and asked her for assistance on some financial matters. Essick accompanied him on a trip to the bank. Later that evening, Aycoth went back to Essick’s house to thank her for her help.
Then the next morning, after Essick’s boyfriend had left, Aycoth walked to Essick’s house, armed with a .22-caliber pistol that had six rounds of ammunition in it, the lawsuit alleges.
According to the lawsuit, Aycoth fired six times at Essick. She was shot five times in her torso and once in her head. She was shot at least twice while she was holding her puppy, Waylon, who was also shot and later died.
The lawsuit said she used her own robe to apply pressure to her wounds and walked from her bedroom to the front of the house, before collapsing.
The lawsuit said that Aycoth told police investigators and prosecutors that he believed Essick was stealing his money.
The lawsuit is seeking at least $25,000 in compensatory damages and at least $25,000 in punitive damages.
A trial date has not yet been set for the lawsuit.