Pechanga Casino Guest Dies From Injuries Suffered in Assault There, Two Women Charged With Murder, Robbery

Posted on: September 7, 2019, 12:07h. 

Last updated on: September 8, 2019, 08:49h.

An elderly woman visiting Pechanga Resort and Casino, a tribal gaming venue located in Temecula, Calif., was assaulted soon after arriving on the premises on the morning of Saturday, Aug. 31. She later died from injuries suffered in the incident, prompting the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department to arrest two female suspects on charges of murder and robbery. One of the suspects is the sister of NBA all-star and Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who recently signed a massive deal with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Candace Townsel, left, and Kimesha Williams, right, are facing murder charges after allegedly assaulting an elderly woman at Pechanga Casino. (Image: KTLA)

The victim, 84-year-old Afaf Anis Assad of Long Beach, Calif., was found unconscious on the floor of a bathroom at Pechanga at 8 a.m. Pacific time Aug. 31, just 30 minutes after her son-in-law dropped Assad and her husband off at the casino.

Assad was transported to a local hospital with what investigators called “serious injuries,” and she died on Wednesday, Sept. 4. Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies arrested 35-year-old Kimesha Williams and 39-year-old Candace Townsel, both of Moreno Valley, Calif., on charges of murder and robbery. Citing Williams’ aunt, Denise Woodard, the Riverside Press Enterprise reported Saturday that the suspect is the sister of LA Clippers forward and reigning NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.

Southwest Station investigators identified two suspects believed to be involved in the crime,” according to a statement issued by the sheriff’s department. “Investigators who had also been closely monitoring Assad’s medical status, learned she would likely die from her injuries. The Central Homicide Unit was notified and responded to assist with the investigation.”

Leonard played his first two years of high school basketball in Moreno Valley before transferring to a school in Riverside. A Riverside County Sheriff’s investigator has written a request to a local judge to deny Williams bail, saying she “has family that are well off and could post her bail of $1,000,000.”

Opened in 2002, Pechanga is owned and operated by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians.

Other Incidents

Pechanga issued a statement saying the safety of its guests is a top priority.

“We are absolutely saddened over this incident and are praying for the victim and her family,” according to the statement. “The suspects were quickly identified through surveillance footage and the information was immediately provided to law enforcement.”

In June, three guests there were injured during a fire. In July, Rich Tyrell, a Temecula resident, went missing following a visit to Pechanga, but was located several days later.

Home to a gaming area that spans 200,000 square feet featuring 5,000 slot machines, 130 table games, and a massive poker room, Pechanga isn’t just the largest casino in California, it’s one of the of largest in the Western US and bigger than any found in Las Vegas.

There are more than 60 tribal casinos in the Golden State that sent about $8 billion to state coffers in the most recently completed fiscal year. Pechanga frequently ranks among the state’s highest-grossing gaming properties.

Caught On Tape

Townsel and Williams were on their way out of the casino when Assad arrived with a purse hanging from her arm that caught the suspects’ eyes. Pechanga surveillance footage shows the pair following the senior citizen into a restroom and then departing the area four minutes later. Assad was later found unconscious with her brain bleeding and $1,000 missing from her purse.

If Townsel and Williams are tried on first degree murder charges, they could face sentences of 25 years to life, life, or capital punishment, though California has suspended the death penalty. State law defines first degree murder as an act featuring some level of deliberation, intent to kill, or premeditation.

While California law mandates that a first degree murder charge must include some type of weapon, be it an explosive, gun, knife, or even poison, the statute also says that murder in the first degree charges can be brought if the victim was killed during the course of another attempted felony, including burglary or robbery.