When we think of the illustrious Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, our minds often wander to their dynamic rallies and great grand slam championships. Yet it is all too easy to forget just how much adversity they had to overcome to reach where they are now—the top of the tennis world.
Their biopic, King Richard, provided an intimate look into their life story, including the special bond shared with their eldest sister, Yetunde Price, who tragically lost her life in 2003.
In King Richard, Mikayla Lashae Bartholomew portrayed the role of Price. This intelligent young woman graduated as valedictorian and was close to both Serena and Venus Williams despite them being half-sisters. She is the daughter of Oracene from her previous relationship with Yusef Rasheed. This familial bond provides a unique perspective on their shared journey toward greatness.
Price Was A Driven Woman With Big Dreams
Price, who lived in an upscale neighborhood in Corona, gave a lot of love and attention to her three kids, two boys and a girl, who were all under the age of 12 when she was murdered. Before becoming a personal assistant to Serena and Venus, Price worked as a nurse for nine years at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, California. This resulted in her staying in Compton while her entire family moved to Florida when her sisters began to shine in tennis.
Venus and Serena share eight siblings but consider Price one of their closest sisters, inspiring them to make her a personal assistant. Price often joined her sisters at their tournaments while helping to take care of their finances and travel arrangements. At the same time, she opened her hair salon in Lakewood with her best friend and was discreet about her relationship with her famous sisters. According to Showbiz Cheatsheet, she remained very close with them and even talked to them every night.
In an interview with PEOPLE the summer before she passed away in 2003, Price revealed that she had no misgivings about staying out of her family’s limelight. “They’re still my sisters,” she said. “We don’t get into the fame thing too much when we’re all together as a family.”
Yetunde’s Tragic Death
She was only 31 when Price was shot and killed in Compton on September 14, 2003, by a Southside Crips gang member named Robert Edward Maxfield. She was traveling in an SUV with her boyfriend Rolland Wormley behind the wheel when Maxfield opened fire into the vehicle.
PEOPLE reported that the shooting occurred as the couple drove down East Greenleaf Boulevard near a suspected drug house. Price was fatally shot in the back of the head about a mile and a half from the tennis courts where her younger sisters Venus and Serena had learned to play tennis.
“When [Venus and Serena] received the calls from all of us here, they were saying, ‘Are you sure this is correct?’ They couldn’t believe it,” a spokesperson for the family told PEOPLE days after Price died. And during an interview with the LA Times in 2003, Price’s boyfriend Wormley recalled the horrific moment she was shot.
“I’m trying to get through this. I’m trying to get away; I’m trying to get her to safety. Once I get to Long Beach Boulevard, I see the back window is shattered. I looked to the right and said, ‘Baby, are you all right?’ I look at [Price], and there was blood everywhere,” he said of the incident. Wormley was not hit during the shooting.
Reports said that Price was not the intended target as the perpetrator, Maxfield, mistook their vehicle for that of a rival gang member. Maxwell was sentenced in April 2006 to 15 years behind bars but was released on parole in March 2018. Serena said she learned about his release on Instagram moments before her Roger’s Cup Tournament match against Johanna Konta.
“I couldn’t shake it out of my mind,” she said. “It was hard because all I think about is her kids and what they meant to me. And how much I love them.”
The Williams Family Heals
Four years after her murder, Serena Williams shared how close she and Price were. “Yetunde and I were so close; she changed my diapers. But I finally came to an acceptance of things,” she said.
Serena and Venus share two other half-siblings, Isha and Lyndrea, from their mother’s side and two more half-sisters on their father’s side. Price meant a lot to them, as seen in Will Smith’s film, King Richard.
To keep their sister’s memory alive, Venus and Serena opened the Yetunde Price Resource Center in Compton in 2016 to offer trauma-informed programs that promote individual and community-wide healing and resiliency.
“We definitely wanted to honor our sister’s memory because she was a great sister, she was our oldest sister, and obviously, she meant a lot to us,” Serena said in a statement. “And it meant a lot to us, to myself and Venus and my other sisters as well, Isha and Lyndrea, that we’ve been wanting to do something for years in memory of her, especially the way it happened, a violent crime.”
After reading about the tragic murder of Yetunde Price, read about the sad loss of Serena and Venus’s nephew, who committed suicide.