Pechanga Murder Suspects, Including Sister of Kawhi Leonard, Are Eligible For Death Penalty

Posted on: September 9, 2019, 11:50h. 

Last updated on: September 10, 2019, 01:43h.

The two suspects in the death of an 84-year-old woman at Pechanga Casino in Temecula, Calif. are eligible for the death penalty, the Riverside County District Attorney’s office confirmed to on Monday.

Kawhi Leonard’s sister is one of two suspects that could face the death penalty for their roles in a murder of an elderly woman at Pechanga Casino. Kawhi Leonard was not involved in the incident. (Image: NY Post)

The suspects, 35-year-old Kimesha Williams, reportedly the sister of LA Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard, and 39-year-old Candace Townsel, both of Moreno Valley, Calif., are being charged with murder, robbery, and abuse of an elder, according to court documents provided to In the filing, the district attorney recommends no bail for Townsel and Williams.

The accused have each been held on $1 million bond. But a Riverside Sheriff’s Department investigator penned a letter to a judge over the weekend asking that bail for Williams be denied because she has family members, presumably her basketball star brother Leonard, with the financial means to post the bail.

Because of the special circumstance of murder during the commission of a robbery, both defendants are eligible for the death penalty,” said John Hall of the Riverside County District Attorney’s office in an email to

Hall added that Townsel and Williams made their first court appearance on Friday, Sept. 6, and their arraignments were continued to Sept. 19. Riverside District Attorney Mike Hestrin will make a determination on pursuing capital punishment at a later date.

California And The Death Penalty

California is one of the most liberal states in the country. But the death penalty has not been eliminated in the Golden State, despite some efforts.

In November 2016, Proposition 62, which have abolished capital punishment in California, was defeated. During the same election, Proposition 66, an initiative to speed up the state’s use of the death penalty, was approved by 51.1 percent of voters.

Earlier this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed an executive order staying executions as long as he’s governor, a move that also shuttered the death penalty facility at San Quentin State Prison. However, under California law, only the voters can repeal capital punishment.

Newsom’s desire to curtail the death penalty hasn’t prevented some California prosecutors from pursuing it, nor has it stopped judges from sentencing criminals to death.

Less than two weeks ago, a Riverside County judge, the county where Townsel and Williams will be tried, sentenced John Hernandez Felix to death for his role in the 2016 shooting deaths of two Palm Springs police officers, a crime that also injured six other law enforcement members.

The death penalty is on the table for Townsel and Williams because they allegedly committed other felonies — in this case, abuse of an elder and robbery — that resulted in murder. Under the Golden State’s parameters for first degree murder and capital punishment, there must be “special circumstances,” and the Pechanga case meets those standards.

Jurisdiction Issues

Pechanga, one of the largest casinos in the Western US, is a tribal gaming venue, and like any other of its kind, is regulated at the federal level.

While a death on a property owned or regulated by the federal government could open the suspects up to charges by the FBI or prosecution by the Justice Department, Hall confirmed to that the Riverside County District Attorney will be handling the Pechanga murder case.