20/05/2024 3:30 AM


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Boyfriend of Serena Williams’ dead sister recalls she was killed

Rolland Wormley never talks about the night his girlfriend, Yetunde Price, was murdered right beside him.

He never talks about how he desperately tried to save the older sister of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams, and was with her in her final moments following the drive-by shooting in Los Angeles.

He also never talks about the nightmare of being, as he claims, put in handcuffs and carted off to a cell, with police thinking he could be involved in Yetunde’s killing.

Memories of Yetunde, who was 31 and a mom of three when she was gunned down in September 2003, have haunted Wormley every day since her death. Now they are being refreshed by the new hit movie “King Richard,” about the Williams family — including Yetunde.

Rolland Wormley
Wormley was driving Yetunde’s car when she was fatally shot in the passenger seat by a Crips gang member.

Wormley, 46, is breaking his silence in an exclusive interview. “A lot of people haven’t heard my side of the story. This really messed me up,” he told The Post. “The truth is, the Williams family didn’t just sweep me under the rug, they flushed me down the toilet as well.” 

A representative for the Williams family did not comment.

For Wormley, Yetunde’s murder — which happened just yards from the Compton neighborhood courts where Venus and Serena first learned to play tennis — left him spiraling into a life of crime and struggling with mental health issues.

The two first met at a surprise party in Compton, hosted by mutual friends, to celebrate his 28th birthday on April 30, 2003.

“Tunde wasn’t dancing, so I left everyone on the dance floor and sat by her side. I didn’t know who she was — I didn’t know she was from the Williams family — but I just wanted to make sure everyone was happy,” Wormley recalled. “We started talking and she danced with me. She didn’t want to turn the birthday boy down!

“We were inseparable. We talked and danced the whole night, and we ended up going to my brother’s after-party. We spent the whole night together.”

The couple began dating and got serious fast. Yetunde, who was a registered nurse, beauty salon owner and part-time assistant to her famous sisters, soon asked Wormley to move into her home in Corona, Calif.

Left to right: Lyndrea Price, Venus Williams, Oracene Price, Isha Price, and Serena Williams attend the 2015 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Ceremony in NYC.
Mom Oracene (center) attends a 2015 Sports Illustrated event with daughters Lyndrea Price (from left), Venus Williams, Isha Price, and Serena Williams.

“I accumulated so much love for her kids,” said Wormley of Yetunde’s three children. “I didn’t have any father growing up, so I wanted to be there for them.”

Still, he turned down Yetunde’s request to move in and get married. “I wanted to gain her trust. She had been hurt previously. She was a single mom with three really young kids, and I was young,” Wormley remembered. “I told her, ‘I don’t want to hurt you and be in the kids’ lives and end up breaking up.’”

Yetunde, who was the valedictorian of her high-school graduating class, was the oldest daughter of Oracene Price and Yusef Rasheed. She and her sisters, Lyndrea and Isha, were raised by Oracene and her new husband, Richard Williams, along with their half-sisters Venus and Serena.

Yetunde had her son Jeffrey, who was 11 at the time of his mom’s death, with Jeffrey Johnson. The couple were together less than a year, as she left him after he was jailed for assaulting a policeman.

She then wed Byron Bobbitt and had daughter Justus and son Jair — 5 and 3 at their mom’s passing — but Yetunde lived in fear of Bobbitt. She filed a police complaint in 1997 which read in part: “Husband threatened me with a knife to my throat, stating he would kill me if I took his daughter away — and he also physically assaulted me.”

Venus Williams with her Father and coach Richard and her sister Serena.
Serena and Venus, seen here with dad Richard, learned to play tennis on a court near where Yetunde would later be shot and killed.
Getty Images

With her family’s help, Yetunde left Bobbitt, divorcing him in 2000, and launched a beauty salon in Lakewood, Calif.

Wormley admits he was no angel. He had served time for vehicle theft, petty theft and domestic violence and was on parole for drug and gun offenses at the time of his girlfriend’s death.

He said he told Yetunde all about his past. “I was in a gang when I met her, but I would not show her any parts of that. It was a totally different life with me and her,” he told The Post.

But everything came crashing down in the early hours of Sept. 14, 2003.

Yetunde had been “calling and calling” her boyfriend that night, upset that he had forgotten their planned date.

“I told her, ‘We still got tomorrow,’” Wormley remembered.

The couple met up before midnight when Yetunde picked him up from a friend’s house in West Compton, where he had been watching a boxing match on TV.

“She told me she was drinking a little bit and asked me to take the wheel,” he said.

But Wormley didn’t have a valid driver’s license, so he stuck to side streets as he drove Yetunde’s GMC Yukon Denali.

Los Angeles County Sheriffs personnel investigate the site where the Yetunde Price, 31, the older sister of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams was shot to death.
Los Angeles County Sheriff personnel investigate the site where Yetunde was fatally shot in 2003.

“I looked over to her and said ‘Tunde, are you OK? Where do you want to go?’ But she was over it. I said, ‘Damn, I didn’t remember I had promised to take you out.’ It freaked me out, seeing her crying,” he told The Post. “I was desperately trying to make it up to her. Her last words to me were ‘Oh, Ro.’”

Their car was, he said, “right across the street from where her sisters practiced tennis, and I see these sparks, I couldn’t hear anything as the windows were up. I see a guy standing to the side of a house … he has something in his hand and he’s shooting at us.

“I instantly grab Tunde’s hand and press the gas. I floor it and drive through the next set of lights. I’m freaking out.”

As he explained to The Post what happened, Wormley began to sob.

“The back window is just shattered. I pull over. I lift Tunde up and blood is dripping out of her. I didn’t see where she got shot and now I’m freaking out and it’s dark … it was a lot. It was a lot.”

In shock, Wormley drove to his mother’s nearby apartment and she called 911. He claimed that the authorities who arrived arrested him on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.

A spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department did not follow up on a request for comment.

According to Wormley, Yetunde — who had been shot by an AK-47 assault rifle — was still in the passenger seat when cops cuffed him.

Serena Williams with sister Yetunde Price
Yetunde (left) and Serena in 2003, just months before the older sister was killed.

“They left her in the truck while she was still living,” he alleged. “If they would have took her to the hospital immediately she would still be living.

“All I kept saying was to get her to hospital … They didn’t care about anybody [who was] black or coming to their rescue, especially when it was gun violence — until they found out that she was a superstar’s sister.”

Wormley’s sister, Carmelle, recalled the scene to The Post: “The ambulance turned the light out as they turned the corner, and we knew she had gone. Rolland was still in the police car, watching. They were pretty much harassing him.”

LAPD officers reportedly held him for allegedly violating the terms of his parole. During interrogations, he claims, authorities told him that other witnesses said he had fought with people at the Compton house, which he denied.

Maxfield, a reputed gang member charged with fatally shooting the half sister of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams had his arraignment on murder charges delayed two weeks after prosecutors cited a possible conflict involving his attorney.
Robert Maxfield, a onetime Crips gang member, pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter in connection with the death of Yetunde Price.

“I had my hands cuffed behind my back like an animal, I couldn’t use the phone or watch the news,” Wormley alleged. “They wouldn’t let me phone a lawyer or my family. They told me they didn’t want to harm their investigation.”

Most painful, he said, was that he missed Yetunde’s funeral.

“I went through so much pain. I lost my love — did anybody think about that? We just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Wormley said he was kept behind bars for just over a week

“I asked God every day, ‘Why did you take her? She was an angel, why didn’t you take me?’” he recalled.

He claims that the Williams and Price families — whom he had celebrated with at Yetunde’s Hawaiian-themed birthday party the month before — “shut me out.”

“I went through hell the minute I lost Tunde. Her family thought I had something to do with it,” Wormley said.

In January 2004, police arrested former Crips member Robert Maxfield, then 23, for her killing.

In 2006, Maxfield pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, the Los Angeles Times reported, and paroled in March 2018, according to state corrections officials. Maxfield was arrested again months later after allegedly violating his parole, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and jail records.

Meanwhile, a spiraling Wormley found himself in and out of trouble for a string of crimes after Yetunde’s death. “He was just devastated by Tunde’s death. That just took his life away,” his sister said. He went to jail in 2004 after pleading no contest to burglary. In December 2006, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison for robbery and attempted murder. His mother died while he was in prison.

Robert Edward Maxfield leaving Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse inLong Beach, CA.
Maxfield was sentenced to 15 years in prison for Yetunde’s death and served 12. He is seen here leaving court in Los Angeles this week after being charged with possession of a firearm.
David Buchan

He’s now two years out of prison and on parole, working as an Amazon delivery driver. He has five children and a sixth on the way with a girlfriend.

He said that leaders of the Crips gang, of which Maxfield had been a member, later apologized to him for Yetunde’s murder.

During an episode of Facebook Watch’s Red Table Talk last month with “King Richard” star Will Smith, Serena Williams said that seeing Yetunde on screen, as portrayed by actress Mikayla LaShae Bartholomew, made her emotional.

“I think I cried the whole time. Whenever she came on film, I just … personally, I just started, like — I mean, even still,” she said.

The sisters’ mother, Oracene Price, added of Yetunde’s portrayal: “It was a quiet moment, I think. ‘Cause we know how it was … it was just something that you kind of try and put in the back of your mind and don’t want to remember.”

The Williams family opened the Yetunde Price Resource Center in Compton in 2016 to provide resources and programming to those affected by trauma.

Will Smith (right), with Demi Singleton (left) and Saniyya Sidney in a scene from "King Richard."
Serena has said she cried seeing an actress play Yetunde in the movie “King Richard,” starring Will Smith (right) Serena and Venus’ father.

Maxfield, meanwhile, is once again in legal trouble. On Wednesday, he was at an LA court after being charged with possession of a firearm. He will be sentenced in January and his attorney said he intends to surrender. Maxfield had no message for the Williams family and declined to comment as he left court.

As for Wormley, who has a tattoo of Price’s name, he is concentrating on taking care of his kids and “staying out of trouble.”

He still thinks often of Yetunde and her three children, who he never saw again after her death, as they were raised by Oracene in Florida.

“I’m not sure if I’ll be able to watch the film,” he said of “King Richard.”

“All I did was get in the car and drive. I’m sorry I turned down the wrong street.”