Teen charged as adult in woman’s shooting death pleads guilty to murder

A 17-year-old boy admitted to firing the shot that killed a St. Paul woman back when he was 15.

Melvin Dump Williams, 17, pleaded guilty on Friday to second-degree murder as part of a plea deal with prosecutors, according to court documents.

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The plea deal states that prosecutors will not 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 calls for prosecutors to drop one charge of second-degree murder and also 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.

His sentencing date is set for Sept. 7.

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The woman who was killed, 34-year-old Yuliya Li of St. Paul, was found outside a restaurant in St. Paul’s Payne-Phalen neighborhood in February 2022.

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.

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 that 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.