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Kawhi Leonard's Sister Sentenced To Life Without Parole For 2019 Murder Of Elderly Woman In Casino Bathroom
"[Afaf Assad] was left on a bathroom floor with her head exploding. A casino bathroom, where people go to urinate and defecate and do God knows what else. That's how her life ended, not with her family and friends around her," Judge Timothy Freer said at Kimesha Williams' murder trial sentencing.
Kimesha Monae Williams, sister of NBA great Kawhi Leonard, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Friday for robbing and beating an elderly woman to death in a California casino, leaving her to bleed out with a cracked skull on a bathroom floor.
Williams, 39, and Candace Tai Townsel, 42, were convicted after a month-long trial in February of murder, robbery and elder abuse for the 2019 murder of 84-year-old Afaf Assad, according to The Press-Enterprise.
However, according to the Southern California newspaper, their sentences for robbery and elder abuse were stayed because those crimes were part of a single act. Instead, a sentencing enhancement was applied because a robbery was committed during the murder.
Around 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 31, 2019 at the Pechanga Resort Casino near Temecula, Assad entered the casino bathroom with her 93-year-old husband Youanness Assad and a pink purse containing about $1,000 in casino winnings.
Prosecutors say that Townsel served as a lookout while Williams entered the bathroom, at one point preventing a custodian from entering. While no one witnessed the killing, a woman in a stall heard a thud when Assad fell to the floor, where she was later discovered by a casino employee.
Then, Williams left the bathroom and made a beeline with Townsel toward the casino's exit. According to prosecutors, Townsel "skipped and waved her arms" as the two left the scene. Richard V. Swanson, an attorney representing Townsel, said in a court filing that his client had been on methamphetamine all night into the morning when Assad was killed.
Her "jubilant celebration," he wrote, was because they were finally leaving the casino after many hours rather than over the murder that he said she was unaware of.
Assad died four days later from her injuries. Her large pink purse was never found.
During the trial, Riverside County Senior Deputy District Attorney Marcus Garrett told the court that a deep laceration was left on Assad's arm, suggesting that someone had violently wrenched the purse away from her before she fell or was pushed.
Representing Williams and Townsel, Virginia Blumenthal argued that because the purse was never found, prosecutors could not prove that a robbery took place and therefore could not provide a motive for the murder.
Both Williams and Townsel had criminal histories involving casinos. Williams was permanently banned from Pechanga in 2015 after stealing a wallet and was banned from two more California resorts for allegedly ripping winning tickets from patrons' hands, according to a court filing from Garrett reviewed by The Press-Enterprise. She had one previous violent crime: an attempted robbery in Los Angeles County.
Townsel was previously banned from the Sobabo Casino near San Jacinto in 2017 after two purses went missing, the filing claimed. She was banned from the Morongo Casino, where Williams was also banned, after a fight with her boyfriend in 2018.
In a statement read by Blumenthal to the court at Williams' Friday sentencing, the NBA star's sister maintained her innocence.
"I am so sorry for your loss," read the statement addressed to the 84-year-old's surviving daughter Mary Assad, according to the Press-Enterprise. "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 he knows the truth."
But Superior Court Judge Timothy F. Freer was unmoved, saying that "the idea that either Miss Williams or Miss Townsel is not responsible for the death of a human being is laughable."
"[Assad] lived a long life. Didn't deserve to be killed, violently murdered in a casino," he said before handing down his sentence. "She was left on a bathroom floor with her head exploding. A casino bathroom, where people go to urinate and defecate and do God knows what else. That's how her life ended, not with her family and friends around her."
Townsel, who did not issue a statement, wiped away tears at the sentencing. Although approximately 15 of her family members sobbed as Freer handed down his sentence, The Press-Enterprise reported, Williams remained stone-faced.
In her victim impact statement read ahead of the sentencing, Assad's daughter expressed her relief after a "long, painful journey through the criminal justice system."
"I still can't believe my mother was the victim of a violent crime ... part of me died in that hospital room with her," Mary Assad wrote. "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."
Kawhi Leonard, Williams' brother, signed a $103 million contract with the Los Angeles Clippers a month before the alleged killing in July of 2019 after leading the Toronto Raptors to an NBA championship. Although his aunt Denise Woodard confirmed Leonard's relationship to Williams in an interview with The Press-Enterprise, the basketball player has distanced himself from the incident.