Two Women Convicted of Killing Casino Visitor During Robbery

City News Service Pristine Villarreal

MURRIETA (CNS) – Two women who robbed and fatally assaulted a senior at the Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula were convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder and other offenses.

A Murrieta jury deliberated two hours before finding Candace Tai Townsell, 42, and Kimesha Monae Williams, 38, both of Moreno Valley, guilty of the 2019 slaying of 84-year-old Afaf Anis Assad of Long Beach.

Along with the murder count, jurors convicted the pair of robbery and elder abuse, as well as a special circumstance allegation of killing during the course of a robbery, with sentence-enhancing great bodily injury allegations.

Testimony lasted for nearly a month, with closing statements by the prosecution and defense on Tuesday. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Freer ordered jurors to return to the Southwest Justice Center Wednesday morning to begin deliberations.

A sentencing date for the defendants was pending. Both women are expected to receive life in prison without the possibility of parole. They’re being held without bail — Townsell at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning, and Williams at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside

According to the prosecution’s trial brief, 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 brief.

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

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 same force that might result in blunt force injuries from “a motor vehicle accident, or an unprotected fall from standing height,” according to the brief.

The witness in the bathroom 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 Riverside County 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, according to prosecutors.

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

Sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Brosche said detectives relied on surveillance camera images and other leads that pointed to Townsell and Williams as the assailants, and both were taken into custody less than a week later — Townsell in Hemet, and Williams in Perris.

Williams, who is reportedly related to Los Angeles Clippers player Kawhi Leonard, has prior convictions for grand theft, burglary and auto theft, according to court records.

Records show Townsell has priors for theft and driving on a suspended license.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

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