Suspects in casino killing could be eligible for death penalty

The two female defendants charged in the robbery and killing of an 84-year-old Long Beach woman at the Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula could be eligible for the death penalty if convicted, officials said Sunday.

One of the suspects, 35-year-old Kimesha Monae Williams, is believed to be the sister of Los Angeles Clippers star forward Kawhi Leonard. Williams' aunt told the Riverside Press-Enterprise on Saturday that Williams and Leonard are siblings.

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John Hall, spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney's Office, would not confirm the relationship, but told City News Service that Williams and 39-year-old Candace Tai Townsel were charged with murder with a special circumstance that makes them eligible for the death penalty.

However, a decision has not yet been made by the District Attorney's Office on whether to pursue the death penalty for either defendant, according to Hall.

According to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, Williams and Townsel followed Afaf Anis Assad of Long Beach into a bathroom at the casino on Aug. 31, where the duo attacked her and stole her purse, which contained $800 to $1,200.

Assad was found unconscious on the bathroom floor and later died of her injuries at Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar.

Sgt. Steve Brosche said detectives obtained leads pointing to Williams and Townsel as the alleged assailants, and both were taken into custody -- Williams in Perris and Townsel in Hemet.

Both suspects are being without bail -- Williams at the Indio Jail and Townsel at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside.

The Press-Enterprise reported that a sheriff's investigator requested that a judge hold Williams without bail because she may flee and "has family that are well-off and could post her bail."

Any defendant in a potential death penalty case is typically held without bail, Hall said.

Leonard could not be reached for comment, and the Clippers did not return requests for comment.

Leonard attended Canyon Springs High School in Moreno Valley before graduating from Martin Luther King High School in Riverside.

He was a All-American collegiate player at San Diego State, and a first-round National Basketball Association pick in 2011.

The two-time Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals was considered to be the top free-agent this off-season before signing in July a three-year, $103 million contract with the Clippers.