Teen certified as adult for woman’s murder in 2022 gets 32-year sentence
A teen has been sentenced to serve more than three decades in prison after admitting to fatally shooting a woman in St. Paul’s Payne-Phalen neighborhood in February of 2022.
Melvin Dump Williams, now 17, admitted earlier this year to firing the shot that killed 34-year-old Yuliya Li of St. Paul- also known to her friends as Julia Li – when he was 15 years old. Court officials ruled in May that Williams would be tried as an adult.
On Tuesday, in a packed courtroom, a judge sentenced Williams to the agreed 386 months, which amounts to just over 32 years.
Williams, who was 16 at the time of the ruling, entered a guilty plea to second-degree murder as part of a deal with prosecutors the following month. The plea deal stated prosecutors won’t ask the judge for more than 386 months, which equates to just over 32 years. Williams was facing a maximum sentence of 40 years. The plea agreement also called for prosecutors to drop one charge of second-degree murder, and states that Williams must plead guilty to another assault case in exchange for two other charges being dropped. He would also serve that assault sentence at the same time as his murder sentence.
Li’s coworkers said she was well respected, and outside of work, was known for her fun-loving and competitive spirit. They add she is deeply missed at H.B. Fuller, saying she already had a leadership role with the company as a global business director and was considered to be rising talent.
“Julia gave everything 110% and she had fun doing it. If she was on your team, you knew she would get the job done and she would get it done perfectly,” said Heather Campe, the senior vice president at H.B. Fuller and a friend of Li’s.
Williams was originally scheduled to be sentenced in September, however, that hearing was later moved to November.
As previously reported by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, the shooting happened near Cook and Payne avenues.
St. Paul police found Li slumped over in the driver’s seat of her SUV, which was locked, still running and in gear but stopped at the intersection of Payne and Cook Avenues at around 6:40 p.m. on Feb. 16. She was suffering from a gunshot wound to the head and, despite being rushed to a hospital, died a short time later.
Court documents state that Li — who was from Kazakhstan but attended the University of Minnesota and the University of St. Thomas and worked at a major manufacturing company in St. Paul — had been shopping for groceries for a dinner party in the coming days.
In court on Tuesday, the defense said Williams had gotten into a fight earlier in the day with students and had gone back to the area with a gun. He apparently saw someone who he had fought with and started firing. Li was then hit by a stray bullet.
After she left the store, she was traveling north on Payne Avenue and stopped to turn left on Cook Avenue. That’s when a muzzle flash was seen on video from the driver’s side of a northbound Ford Taurus that was behind her.
Investigators found that Li’s SUV had a single hole in the rear window, and four spent 9 mm casings were found at the intersection, court documents state.
Those casings were later determined to have been fired by the same gun used in two other incidents in which Williams was a suspect, according to a criminal complaint.
Charging documents state investigators looked at various security and surveillance videos to track the Taurus to an apartment that was listed as Williams’ address. Other videos also showed his face, which helped investigators recognize him, and his cellphone data also matched the location of the shooting and the route the Taurus took to get to Williams’ apartment, the complaint adds.