Kimesha Monae Williams is the sister of Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard who has been charged with the murder of 84-year-old Afaf Anis Assad. Assad and her husband Youanness, 94, were going to spend the day at the Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, California, when Afaf Assad was robbed and beaten to death, police say.
The six-foot-two-inch, 320-pound Williams, 35, and her alleged accomplice, Candace Tai Townsel, 39, have been charged with murder, robbery, elder abuse and a special circumstance of committing a robbery during a murder. The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office has not determined if they will seek the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“We are absolutely saddened over this incident and are praying for the victim and her family,” Jared Munoa, president of the Pechanga Development Corporation, which oversees the casino, said in an emailed statement to The Sun. “We pride ourselves on putting the safety of our guests and team members first and are fully cooperating with law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice.”
Kawhi Leonard has not commented about the charges against his sister. Denise Woodard, Leonard’s aunt, confirmed their relationship to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, but told the newspaper, “he didn’t have anything to do with this.”
Here’s what you need to know about Kimesha Williams:
1. Williams & Townsel Were Leaving the Casino but Turned Around When They Saw Assad’s Purse, Police Say
On the morning of August 31, Afaf Assad and her husband had just been driven to the casino by their daughter Mary and her family, who were going on a day trip to Julian in San Diego County. Mary Assad said she dropped her parents off by the casino’s valet and waved them off. “You would think it’s a safe place to take your parents,” she told The Sun.
According to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office, the Long Beach, California couple entered the casino just before 7:30 a.m. Williams and Townsel were on their way out of the casino but headed back in when they spotted Afaf Assad carrying a pink purse. Inside, the purse contained $1000.
2. Kimesha Williams & Candace Townsel Attacked Assad in the Casino Bathroom, According to Police
Video surveillance showed Williams and Townsel trailing behind Afaf Assad as the elderly woman entered the casino’s bathroom at 7:28 a.m. Townsel followed Assad into the bathroom as Williams waited outside for a few seconds before also entering. A casino guest who went into the bathroom and entered a stall immediately after said she heard someone fall.
At 7:32 a.m. Townsel is seen on camera briefly leaving the restroom, then about to head back in, when she saw a custodian walking toward the bathroom entrance. Townsel bumped into the custodian to cut her off and distracted her by asking, “Oh, are you working here?” Williams exited and the two women quickly left the casino. Assad was found immediately after by the custodian and the woman who had been in the bathroom stall.
The casino’s security footage proved to be critical for identifying Williams and Townsel. In addition to capturing the pair following Assad into the bathroom, Williams was seen earlier going up to the casino’s lost and found to reclaim her cell phone where she had to show her identification and casino club player’s card.
Williams and Townsel were arrested on September 3 and Assad died from her injuries the following day. “It was just all very unexpected and tragic and unnecessary,” daughter Mary Assad said.
“She didn’t even get a chance to play,” son-in-law Wayne Brown told CBS2/KCAL9. “I mean she had some money in her wallet because she was ready to play that day, and I don’t know if they targeted her because she just walked through the door and they knew she had money in her wallet.”
3. Williams & Townsend Had Previously Robbed Other Casino Patrons, Police Say
It wasn’t the first theft Williams and Townsel had committed at the casino. In November 2015, Williams swiped a slot machine player’s wallet while another woman distracted the victim. Williams’ accomplice appeared to be Townsel.
Williams and Townsel both have lengthy criminal histories. Williams has convictions for petty theft, grand theft, misappropriating lost property, grand theft auto, and attempted robbery. Townsel has a prior petty theft conviction in Riverside County.
4. Investigators Have Asked That Williams be Held Without Bail
Authorities have asked the judge to hold Williams without bail, citing that her family is wealthy enough to make bail and she’d be a flight risk. “Williams has a violent history and targeted a feeble elderly female and robbed her,” a sheriff’s investigator wrote.
Assad’s family has acknowledged that they do not believe Kawhi Leonard is in any way connected to the murder of Afaf Assad. Assad’s son-in-law Brown released the following statement to the media: “The family and I are aware of the connection. Obviously no one believes [Kawhi Leonard] was involved in any way in the incident. We’re aware that he has experienced similar tragedy in his past and we would hope that everyone is sensitive to this. I have only hope that he might keep my family in his prayers as we know he understands the pain we’re experiencing.”
5. Kawhi Leonard’s Father Was Murdered 2008
On January 18, 2008, the ex-husband of Williams’ mother Kim and Kawhi’s father Mark Leonard, 43, was shot and killed at his car wash in Compton. That afternoon, Leonard was wrapping up work so he could attend one of Kawhi’s high school basketball games when several people walked up to the car wash. There was a dispute, and someone fired more than 30 shots, with 10 of them hitting Leonard.
Leonard was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead at 6:44 p.m. As of 2019 there has been no arrest and no motive has been found for the shooting.