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Gang/drug ties in Williamses' sisters killing

Discussion in 'General' started by Bud Head, Sep 17, 2003.

  1. Tuesday, September 16

    Friends say Price not involved in either

    Associated Press

    COMPTON, Calif. -- A man arrested in the shooting death of the sister of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams was associated with gangs, and the killing took place outside a home where drugs were sold in the past, police said.

    Aaron Michael Hammer, 24, was charged with murder Tuesday in the death of the 31-year-old mother of three. As many as four others were being sought for questioning, Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators said.

    Hammer appeared briefly in Superior Court and was charged, but Judge John J. Cheroske postponed his arraignment to Sept. 23 at the request of the defense. He remained held without bail.

    Hammer, of Compton, is accused of shooting Yetunde Price, 31, as she sat in a sport utility vehicle early Sunday with a companion, Rolland Wormley, 28. An assault rifle and shell casings were found at the scene.

    Authorities initially reported that Price was shot in the chest, but a coroner's spokesman said Tuesday that an autopsy showed she died of a gunshot wound to the head.

    Hammer also was charged with using and possessing a firearm. If convicted of all charges, Hammer would face life in prison with the possibility of parole.

    Hammer has ties to a Compton street gang although he is not a member, authorities said, declining to elaborate. He has been convicted on counts of check forgery and commercial burglary.

    Price was shot about a mile from the tennis courts where her younger sisters first rose to prominence in this violence-plagued city southeast of Los Angeles. An assault rifle and shell casings were found at the scene.

    The motive and whether she knew her assailant were unclear.

    Investigators said Price and Wormley got into some kind of dispute with a group of residents in front of a home on Greenleaf Boulevard, which was known for gangs and drugs.

    "At this point we just don't know if this is gang or narcotics," said sheriff's Lt. Daniel Rosenberg, a homicide detective. "I can tell you there are certain indications to suggest this location has involved either gangs or drugs. The house was troublesome."

    Authorities said they had no indication that Price was involved with drugs or gangs. Her friends Sheriee and David Brown have said she didn't use drugs or associate with gangs.

    Wormley's sister attended Hammer's court hearing and afterward disputed investigators' account of the shooting. She said the pair were "just driving through" Compton at the time.

    "There was no confrontation," Carmelle Wormley said.

    Richard Williams, father of Serena and Venus Williams and stepfather of the victim, also attended the hearing. He left without comment.

    After the shooting, Wormley drove Price to his relative's house in neighboring Long Beach and called 911. She was taken to a Long Beach hospital, where she died.

    Wormley, 28, was arrested for investigation of violating his parole and assault with a deadly weapon using a firearm, sheriff's Deputy Bill Spear said. However, authorities said Tuesday they did not have enough evidence to seek an assault with a deadly weapon charge.

    Wormley has a long criminal history that included convictions for transporting or selling marijuana, vehicle theft, receiving stolen goods and unlawful firearm activity, said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the county district attorney's office.

    Wormley also was expected to be arraigned Tuesday.

    Price was divorced and had three children, ages 5, 9 and 11. She lived in Corona, 40 miles from Compton.

    Price, one of five sisters who spent their early years in Compton, was a registered nurse who owned a beauty salon. She also served as a personal assistant to her famous half sisters, who moved to Florida with their parents when they turned pro as teenagers.

    Raymone Bain, publicist for Serena Williams, said the family was in shock.

    "They're all together now, leaning on each other, trying to come to terms with this," Bain said. "I know it's going to take them a long time to recover from this."

    At an anti-violence rally Monday night, activists and residents raised candles in Price's memory, chanting, "Stop the violence. Increase the peace." Many were saddened that the Williams family couldn't escape the violence.

    "Why in this city of all cities? The city they loved. The city that they learned in, that they trained in," asked Patricia Moore, a family friend who has lived here for 30 years. "They've worked so hard to come up. They worked so hard to improve. They represent the highest of the highs for us."



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