The two women shown, including the sister of Clippers star Kawhi Leonard, are accused of robbing and fatally beating Alaf Assad (middle) at Pechanga casino have a criminal history, according to court records. Valley News/File photo 

MURRIETA (CNS) – A jury was sworn in yesterday and testimony got underway
in the trial of two women accused of robbing and fatally beating a senior at
the Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula.

Candace Tai Townsell, 42, and Kimesha Monae Williams, 38, both of
Moreno Valley, allegedly killed 84-year-old Afaf Anis Assad of Long Beach in

Both defendants are charged with first-degree murder, 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.

Following nearly two weeks of jury selection that was interrupted by
the holidays, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Freer swore in a
panel Wednesday morning at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta.

After the jurors were seated, the prosecution submitted its opening
statement. However, the defense elected to reserve its opening until
prosecutors completed their case-in-chief.

The trial is expected to span the entire month.

Each defendant is being held without bail — Townsell at the Smith
Correctional Facility in Banning, and Williams at the Robert Presley Jail in

According to the prosecution’s trial brief, Townsell and Williams had
been trawling the casino in the predawn hours of Aug. 31, 2019, stealing a
woman’s mobile phone and trying to scope out 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 about 7:30 that morning, 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 of 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 allegedly 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

According to court papers, as Assad left her stall and headed toward a
sink, the defendants allegedly pounced on her. One allegedly 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 amount of 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 allegedly prevented a custodian from entering the
restroom before bolting out of the space, all of which was caught on security

“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 alleged robbery was between $800 and
$1,200, sheriff’s 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
alleged assailants, and both were taken into custody less than a week later —
Townsell in Hemet, and Williams in Perris.

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

Court records show that Townsell has priors for theft and driving on a
suspended license. Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.