Tennis Star Serena Williams Addresses Half Sister’s Killer

Reputed gang member Robert Maxfield, 25, is given 15 years in the death of Yetunde Price.

By Kelly-Anne Suarez
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

April 7, 2006

Tennis star Serena Williams addressed the man who killed her half sister Thursday, as he was sentenced to 15 years in state prison in the woman’s 2003 shooting death.

Robert Edward Maxfield, 25, a reputed Southside Crips gang member, pleaded no contest in a Compton courthouse to the voluntary manslaughter of Yetunde Price, 31. The sentencing marked the end of a marathon prosecution that spanned 2 1/2 years, and featured two trials that ended in hung juries.

“I wasn’t going to speak today because it’s too hard for me to talk,” Serena Williams told Maxfield in Compton Superior Court.

But she said she wanted to let him “know that this was unfair to our family, and our family has always been positive and we always try to help people.”

Price, or “Tunde” as friends called her, lived in Corona with her three children, Jeffrey, Justus and Jair. She was a registered nurse, owned a beauty shop with a friend in Lakewood and sometimes served as a personal assistant to her famous sisters, Serena and Venus Williams.

Charges against Maxfield’s co-defendant, Aaron Hammer, were dismissed after a Compton jury in November 2004 deadlocked 9-3 in favor of acquittal. Hammer, also an alleged Crips member, was accused of firing a .22-caliber handgun at Price’s vehicle.

Defense attorney Robin Yanes said he encouraged Maxfield to take the 15-year sentence rather than risk a conviction at a third trial.

His first trial ended in November 2004 with six jurors voting for acquittal, five for guilty and one undecided. The second mistrial was declared on April 29, 2005, when jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of conviction.

Price and her boyfriend, Rolland Wormley, were driving near a suspected Crips drug house shortly after midnight on Sept. 14, 2003, when Maxfield, using an AK-47 assault rifle, fired about a dozen rounds into Price’s white, GMC Yukon Denali, witnesses said. A round struck Price in the back of the head. The couple was driving in the 1100 block of East Greenleaf Boulevard — a mile from the playground where her sisters learned to play tennis.

She was pronounced dead at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. Wormley was not injured.

Police files identify Wormley, now 30, as a member of the Mac Mafia Crips. He was charged with six felonies last month, including robbery, assault and two counts of attempted murder. His prior convictions include drug and firearms offenses.

Until the Thursday sentencing, neither of the Williams sisters had been present at any of the court proceedings.

Price’s former mother-in-law told Deputy Dist. Atty. Hoon Chun that the family was satisfied with the sentence.

“They’re pleased that’s there’s an appropriate resolution to the case,” Chun said.

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