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Williams family loses nucleus
- ‘Our grief is overwhelming, and this is the saddest day of our lives’

There was nothing anyone could have said to Serena Williams that would have been more piercing, more painful, more unreal. Her oldest sister, Yetunde Price, was shot dead after an argument in Compton, California, early on Sunday and, as Serena heard the news over the phone a few hours later, she became hysterical, family friends said.

Her sister, Venus, in New York for Fashion Week, was equally distraught. As the day passed, the family eventually released a statement. “We are extremely shocked, saddened and devastated by the shooting death of our beloved Yetunde. She was our nucleus and our rock. Our grief is overwhelming, and this is the saddest day of our lives.”

“The family is devastated, and I imagine it’s going to take a while for them,” added Keven Davis, the Williams’ longtime attorney. “Yetunde was an older sister, a best friend, and she worked with the girls too, so she was very deeply involved in their lives and with all of us on a regular basis.”

The family had been scattered around North America — Serena was in Toronto filming a cable television series — but had all gathered in Los Angeles by Sunday night. There had been five Williams sisters — Yetunde Price (31), Isha Price (29), Lyndrea Price (25), Venus (23) and Serena (21).

Venus and Serena are the daughters of Oracene Price and Richard Williams. Yetunde was the daughter of Oracene Price and Yusef A.K. Rasheed.

All five daughters had lived with Richard and Oracene in Compton, a suburb of Los Angeles, until about a decade ago, when they moved to Palm Beach Gardens, to expose Venus and Serena to better tennis instruction.

Prior to that, the sisters had practised on a cracked cement court scarred with the bullets of gang shootings; the court is still in use and is near the corner where Yetunde Price was shot.

“We’re still investigating exactly what happened, but around 12:15 am, our officers who patrol that area of Compton heard several rounds of gunfire,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Pena. “They responded, and when they investigated, they found that a white SUV driven by a man with a woman in the passenger seat had gotten into a confrontation with the residents there. This woman turned out to be Yetunde Price.”

Price was the mother of three young children. She was divorced. She also was a registered nurse and the co-owner of a beauty shop, as well as a personal assistant to Venus and Serena, co-ordinating their finances and travel arrangements.

“More than anything, she was just the big sister of the family. She was the oldest, so she had a real motherly role, and she was just a real wise person, a real calming influence,” said Cora Masters, a close family friend who was at Wimbledon this summer with Oracene and all five of the sisters.

“I talked to Oracene this morning, and she was just in shock. Everyone is either in shock or hysterical. Every time I talk to Isha, we get 30 seconds in on the phone and then we both just break down crying.”

All five Williams sisters often publicly had said their family was more important to them than anything else, particularly tennis. “One of us talks to another of us on the phone at least once a day, and probably more than that,” Yetunde Price said in June.

At Wimbledon, she stood outside the locker room and helped Venus calm down after an injury in the semi-finals. “I wouldn’t have made it without my sisters,” Venus said later.

The five had seen each other through many trials, from an impoverished upbringing to adjustments to fame as Venus and Serena rose to the top of the tennis rankings. Along the way, Richard and Oracene were divorced. Serena was tracked by a stalker for more than a year, and the family recently dealt with the death of Oracene’s mother.

“This is a close family, and they will get through this the way they get through everything, but it will be hard,” said Raymone Bain, Venus and Serena’s publicist. “Yetunde was not only a wonderful person, but a wonderful mother who loved her children so much. For a senseless murder like this, you just have to wonder, Why'”

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