Woman Guilty in Murder Plot Gets Life Term
A devastated mother, who has suffered through the murders of two of her nine daughters, slumped in her seat, laid her head back and closed her eyes as a video with scenes from the short life of one slain daughter was played in a courtroom here Friday.
The daughter on the video screen, 22-year-old Ardell Williams, was killed after she provided damaging testimony that helped authorities indict William Clinton Clark in a 1991 Fountain Valley murder case. She had agreed to testify against Clark in large part because of the unsolved murder of her older sister nine years earlier.
On Friday, a Superior Court judge sentenced Antoinette Yancey to life in prison without the possibility of parole for helping her jailed boyfriend, who was desperate to get rid of Williams as a witness, carry out the murder.
Prosecutors said Yancey befriended Williams then led her to a remote industrial office where the victim was shot in the back of the head at point-blank range.
Although Yancey had originally faced a possible death sentence, those efforts were dropped by the prosecution after a jury last month found that she did not actually pull the trigger. The Torrance woman had maintained her innocence throughout the trial.
The victim’s mother, 61-year-old Angie Williams of Gardena, was too grief-stricken to speak at the sentencing but later, she expressed relief.
“They can’t get away with killing a witness,” she said. “Our prayers have been answered with the sentence, but this whole thing is not really over in our hearts.”
Three of the mother’s surviving daughters told Superior Court Judge Jean M. Rheinheimer of the devastating effect the murders have had on their family. They said Ardell Williams’ young son has no memory of his mother and that they all still live with fear.
“Someone actually planned out the taking of her life,” said Liz Fontenot, 38. “To think there is someone out there who would do that, who would plan an execution.”
Another sister, 29-year-old Fay Williams Scott, said that having two sisters murdered--22-year-old Tina Williams was found bludgeoned to death in Culver City in 1985--followed by the death of their father from throat cancer two years ago, has rocked the family, and they are comforted only by their strong Christian faith and each other.
“We were nine girls who grew up in a tight, loving home,” Scott said. “It was like having a chain-link fence and taking two of those links away. It leaves the chain very loose.”
Candase Westbrook, 31, recalled how she was summoned to the murder scene to identify her sister during the early morning hours of March 13, 1994.
“I remember thinking, ‘Who could hunt down this person like an animal?’ ” she said.
A subdued Rheinheimer, who is retiring and was handing down the last sentence of her career, said that Yancey had violated the “trust and confidence” of the victim.
“I extend my shared grief with the Williams’ family for the loss of their daughter,” Rheinheimer said quietly.
Yancey sat expressionless throughout the one-hour proceeding, avoiding any eye contact with the judge and the victim’s family. She will seek a new trial, her attorneys said.
One of her attorneys, Gary Proctor, said his client does not deserve to spend the rest of her life in prison. During the trial, Proctor had described Clark as a “puppet master” who manipulated Yancey.
Proctor said the life sentence was “disproportionate and unfair” and said the agony of the Williams’ family will not be over until Clark receives what he believes should be a death sentence.
“It seems hard for me to believe that her involvement justifies a sentence of life in prison,” Proctor said.
But Deputy Dist. Atty. Rick King said Yancey was not “a person who did not know what was going on.” He also talked about the impact that such a case has on a “delicate” justice system.
“We have a case where a young woman made a decision to . . . become a witness,” King said. “When we have a witness murdered, this delicate system falls apart.”
The fatal shooting that Williams testified to a grand jury about occurred during a robbery-murder in 1991 at the CompUSA store in Fountain Valley. Kathy Lee, a 49-year-old secretary from Garden Grove, was killed when she arrived to pick up her teenage son, an employee at the store.
Williams did not actually witness the shooting but had been with Clark about a month before the robbery when he cased the computer store, and she learned about Lee’s murder from Clark’s younger brother.
King said Williams decided to become involved because she did not want Lee’s family to have to endure the unanswered questions that her family had faced since the murder of Tina Williams, the second oldest of nine daughters.
Last May, Clark was convicted of double first-degree murder for masterminding the crimes resulting in the deaths of both women. But the jury was unable to decide if he should be executed and he is awaiting a new penalty phase trial.
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