The Williams sisters had to overcome many obstacles to get to where they are now, and their biopic King Richard gave details about their life story including their close relationship with their elder sister, Yetunde Price, who was murdered in 2003.
In the movie King Richard, actress Mikayla Lashae Bartholomew took on the role of Price, who graduated as the valedictorian of her class and was close to both Serena and Venus Williams despite the two only being half-sisters. Price was the daughter of the tennis stars’ mother, Oracene, from a previous relationship with Yusef Rasheed.
A mother of three, Price was a registered nurse who worked as a personal assistant to Serena and Venus before her tragic death in 2003 at the age of 31. Price was shot and killed on September 14, 2003, in Compton 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 look 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’s. Maxwell was sentenced in April 2006 to 15 years behind bars but was released on parole in March of 2018. Serena said she got to know 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.”
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 they considered Price as one of their closest sisters, and that inspired 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 own hair salon in Lakewood with her best friend and was discreet about her relationship with her famous sisters. But she remained very close with them and even talked to them every night before bed, according to Showbiz Cheatsheet.
Four years after her murder, Serena 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.
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 to 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.”
Serena and Venus share two other half-siblings, Isha and Lyndrea, from their mother’s side as well as two more half-sisters on their father’s side. Price indeed meant a lot to them as seen in the film King Richard.
“Whenever she came on film, I just — personally, I just started, like — I mean, even still,” Serena said of Price during an interview.