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2nd Arrest Linked to Killing of Tennis Stars' Older Sister

October 08, 2003|Chuck Philips | Times Staff Writer

Authorities have arrested a second Compton gang member they suspect might be tied to the shooting of the half-sister of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams.

Michael Williams, 38, a reputed member of the Southside Crips, has not been charged in connection with the killing of Yetunde Price, 31. He is being held on suspicion of violating his parole from previous convictions for robbery and drug offenses.

Investigators are interested in Williams because his car was found parked in front of a reputed Compton drug house where Price and a male companion are believed to have argued with gang members moments before Price was fatally shot Sept. 14.

Williams was arrested Sept. 26 after police allegedly found crack cocaine and firearms in his 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass sedan. Sources say Williams lived at the house before the shooting. Investigators also found a green 1978 Cadillac sedan registered to Williams' wife parked in the driveway of the house.

Williams, whose street monikers are "Mike Doggy" and "Psycho Mike," was arrested at a hotel half a mile from the house. He was being held at a county jail facility in Saugus and could not be reached for comment. His wife, Odettie Faye France, referred calls to lawyer Clay Black, who declined to comment.

Broadening their probe into Price's death, investigators have been tracking the movements of Southside Crips that night. Members of the gang sold drugs from the dilapidated house on East Greenleaf Boulevard and are believed to be responsible for Price's killing.

Aaron Michael Hammer, 24, an alleged member of the Crips, has been charged with Price's murder. Police are trying to locate several other Crips believed to have participated in the shooting.

Price, a single mother of three with a home in Corona, was shot shortly after midnight in the 1100 block of East Greenleaf -- a mile from the tennis courts where Serena and Venus Williams learned to play.

The Sheriff's Department refused to discuss details of its investigation. But law enforcement sources familiar with the probe said Michael Williams, no relation to the tennis-playing sisters, has told police that he was not in Compton on the night Price was shot.

Investigators traveled to Las Vegas last week to check out Williams' account of his whereabouts, sources said.

Investigators are also seeking to question a Southside Crip named Deandrae "Big Dre" Smith. Smith was charged with a 1996 murder and acquitted by a jury. In recent years, police have raided several crack houses allegedly run by Smith, but have not charged him.

Smith was often seen with Williams at the Greenleaf Boulevard house last summer, according to law enforcement, neighborhood and gang sources.

Witnesses have told police that Price and her boyfriend, Rolland Wormley, 28, were driving on Greenleaf in her white GMC Yukon Denali when they became involved in an altercation with men outside the reputed drug house. Shots were fired, and Price was struck in the head.

Wormley, a parolee who has been convicted of drug and firearms offenses, is listed in police files as a member of the Mac Mafia Crips -- a North Long Beach gang that police say has been feuding with Compton's Southside Crips.

Wormley denies being a gang member and has publicly disputed the account offered by witnesses. He has contended that he and Price never stopped their vehicle on Greenleaf or argued with anyone, and that the shooting was unprovoked.

The stucco house at 1105 Greenleaf is now boarded up with plywood, the doors and windows nailed shut. A makeshift shrine of candles and flowers sits on the sidewalk out front.

Residents along Greenleaf say the property has long been a magnet for gang members who gathered there to buy and sell drugs and drink.

Before the shooting, Greenleaf Boulevard was often lined with the cars of drug purchasers, according to law enforcement, neighborhood and gang sources. Most transactions were conducted inside the house, after which customers returned to their vehicles and drove off, the sources said.

Around April, Michael Williams moved into the house, sources said, and he continued living there until the night Price was shot. Several months ago, one of Williams' relatives was shot on the premises, but the incident was not reported to police, gang sources said.

In July, "Big Dre" Smith began visiting Williams on Greenleaf, leaving a champagne-colored Cadillac Escalade parked out front, according to law enforcement, neighborhood and gang sources.

Smith showed up on Greenleaf shortly after the sheriff's narcotics bureau and Operation Safe Streets gang division raided Run Off Records, a music company he owned a few blocks away on Alondra Boulevard.

Smith was not present during the June 20 raid, when police seized drugs and arrested two men. Smith has not been charged in that investigation.

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