The two Moreno Valley women accused of killing an elderly Long Beach resident at Pechanga Resort Casino pleaded not guilty to all charges Wednesday, Oct. 30.

Kimesha Monae Williams, 35, and Candace Tai Townsel, 39, have been charged with murder, robbery and cruelty to an elder. The robbery special circumstance makes the defendants eligible for the death penalty if convicted as charged. District Attorney Mike Hestrin has not decided whether to pursue that punishment, spokesman John Hall said.

Candace Tai Townsel, 39, of Moreno Valley, is escorted into the courtroom before entering a plea at her arraignment for the accused murder of Afaf Anis Assad, 84, at Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019. Andrew Foulk Contributing Photographer

The next court date was set for Jan. 8. Both women were being held without bail. Williams is the sister of Clippers star forward Kawhi Leonard, whose wealth initially led to a concern by the Sheriff’s Department that she could make bail.

Outside court Wednesday, Williams’ attorney, Riverside-based Virginia Blumenthal, took issue with a statement made by the sheriff’s investigator who sought to withhold bail that seemed to point the finger at her client as being responsible for the death of Afaf Assad, 84.

In a court filing, the investigator wrote that a doctor at Inland Valley Medical Center told him that the fatal injury could not have simply been caused by a fall and would have required “a great amount of force, such as being pushed, thrown or punched by a 320-pound person.” Williams is listed in court records as weighing 320 pounds.

“I want to see their expertise to make that sort of a determination,” Blumenthal said. “It seems to be a little over the top.”

Assad, 84, was slain during an Aug. 31 robbery in a bathroom at the resort near Temecula, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said. Assad, whose skull was broken and purse was stolen with an estimated $1,000 inside, died Sept. 4.

Williams had been banned from the resort after she was convicted of stealing a slot machine player’s purse with $1,450 in it in 2015. The Sheriff’s Department believes that Townsel conspired with Williams in that theft, though she was never charged. Williams and Townsel were convicted of petty theft in July after stealing a woman’s purse.

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