Crime and Courts

Sister of Clippers Star Kawhi Leonard Sentenced to Life for 2019 Killing of Elderly Woman in Casino Bathroom

Kimesha Williams and another woman were convicted in what prosecutors say was a robbery gone wrong.

The sister of Los Angeles Clippers star forward Kawhi Leonard was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2019 killing of an elderly woman in a Temecula casino bathroom in 2019. 

Kimesha Monae Williams, 39, and Candace Tai Townsell, 42, both of Moreno Valley, were convicted in February of the 2019 slaying of 84-year-old Afaf Anis Assad of Long Beach.

The pair were accused of following Assad into the bathroom where they attacked her and stole her purse. The two were found guilty of first-degree murder, robbery and elder abuse in February. 

Williams’ aunt, Denise Woodard, previously confirmed the connection to Leonard to the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

According to the District Attorney's Office, Townsell and Williams were trawling the casino in the predawn hours of Aug. 31, 2019, stealing a woman's mobile phone and trying to scope out other targets for theft.

"Both have a long-documented history of theft crimes throughout Riverside County," according to the prosecution's trial brief.

The defendants were preparing to leave at 7:30 a.m., and about the time they reached the front exit, they observed Assad arrive with her 92-year-old husband, who walked toward a gaming room while the victim stepped into a ladies restroom, prosecutors said.


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Pechanga security cameras captured all of the goings-on outside the lavatory, including images of Townsell and Williams "diverting their path (to the exit) to follow Mrs. Assad into the restroom," the brief stated.

The women stationed themselves inside the bathroom, near the exit, as the victim walked into a stall. They were observed by two casino patrons, one of whom described them as loitering for "no real purpose," according to the brief.

One witness went into a stall, and the other left, after which the two defendants, Assad and the remaining witness were the only parties in the restroom.

According to court papers, as Assad left her stall and headed toward a sink, the defendants pounced on her. One ripped her pink purse from her grasp with such force as to leave a severe bruise on her left arm, and the other knocked the senior to the bathroom floor, where the back of her head impacted with the kind of severity comparable to "a motor vehicle accident, or an unprotected fall from standing height," according to the brief.

The witness in the stall heard the commotion and what sounded like "vomiting or throwing up," followed by a loud thud, court papers stated.

The defendants prevented a custodian from entering the restroom before bolting out of the space, all of which was caught on security cameras.

"Townsell was observed skipping and waiving her hands in a celebratory fashion," according to the brief.

The custodian found Assad bleeding and unconscious, prompting her to alert casino security and medical personnel, who attempted to render aid until fire department paramedics reached the location.

The victim was taken to Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar, where she died three days later, never having regained consciousness. She had suffered a brain hemorrhage, prosecutors said.

The defendants' gain from the robbery was between $800 and $1,200, investigators said.

Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Brosche said detectives relied on the surveillance camera images and other leads to identify Townsell and Williams as the assailants. Both were taken into custody less than a week later -- Townsell in Hemet, and Williams in Perris.

Williams has prior convictions for grand theft, burglary and auto theft. Townsell has priors for theft and driving on a suspended license

“This has been a long, painful journey through the criminal court justice system,” Assad’s daughter, Mary Assad, said in a statement she read to the court, according to the Riverside County Press-Enterprise. “I still can’t believe my mother was the victim of a violent crime … Part of me died in that hospital room with her."

“My father is without his wife and partner and is isolated and alone in a way we cannot begin to understand … We seek not vengeance but there needs to be a reckoning for their heinous act.”

In a statement that was read to the court by her attorney, Williams maintained that she did not kill Assad.

“I am so sorry for your loss,” Williams wrote, addressing Mary Assad. “I have been praying for you and your family every day. I am not responsible for the death of Mrs. Assad. Although the courts have found me guilty of the charges, we all know the truth, and that there is one judge, and that is God, and that he knows the truth.”

Townsel did not make a statement.

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