As a kid growing up in north Minneapolis, Iesha Wiley had a mind of her own.
You could try to get her to listen, but it wouldn’t do you much good, says her mother, Teddie Wiley.
Even at 5-foot nothing, the diminutive Iesha, 26, was hard to miss.
“She had a big heart; her heart was bigger than her,” her mother said. But, she added, “If you shake that cage and make that lion come out, you would think she’s 6 feet tall.”
Wiley was shot and killed May 12 in an argument with her on-again, off-again boyfriend and his friend at a north Minneapolis strip mall.
The alleged triggerman, Nicholas A. Jefferson, 31, of Minneapolis, was charged soon after with second-degree murder, but for two months Wiley’s boyfriend, Marvel Williams, remained on the run. Last week police caught up to him.
Williams, 29, was spotted riding in a car in north Minneapolis. He tried to flee, dropping a gun and losing a shoe as he ran, but was eventually arrested, prosecutors said. Williams is charged with second-degree murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He remains jailed in lieu of $1 million bail.
His criminal record in the state is considerable: assault, drug and gun possession, fleeing police and aiding a murder suspect.
The shooting culminated what Teddie Wiley called a tumultuous relationship between the two. Williams’ lawyer said he can’t speculate on what led up to the shooting.
“At this point, it’s too early for me to give you any more information about the extent the relationship may have played a role in all this,” said Murad Mohammad, Williams’ attorney. He said he could not comment on the case before reviewing files from the prosecution.
Minneapolis police spokeswoman Sgt. Catherine Michal said that the case is now in the hands of prosecutors.
“Culpability will be determined at trial,” she wrote in an e-mail Friday.
Teddie Wylie said she warned her daughter over and over to stay away from Williams, conversations that usually ended in arguments. She said she regrets not pushing harder, but worried about alienating her daughter.
Charges say that Williams followed Iesha into a store in a strip mall off W. Broadway and Lyndale Avenue N. and was arguing with her as she held a baby she was caring for. Williams demanded that she put down the infant, but she refused, “fearing she would be assaulted,” according to court filings.
Witnesses told investigators that the heated confrontation eventually spilled into the parking lot. He punched her and took her phone. She pepper sprayed him.
When Iesha demanded her phone back, Williams was overheard telling someone in a car stopped nearby to shoot Wiley, police said. Moments later, gunfire came from the open passenger-side window, striking Iesha once in the chest. The baby was not hurt.
Several witnesses identified Jefferson as the alleged shooter. Authorities say Jefferson admitted to being at the scene, but said someone else fired the fatal shot.
Sadness creeps into Teddie Wiley’s voice when she talks about 22-year-old Aaron Williams (no apparent relation to Marvel), who she said was nearby when Iesha was shot. Aaron himself was gunned down less than three weeks later, in what police are investigating as a possible robbery attempt. That case remains unsolved.
“It’s really sad how an innocent person got his life took for nothing,” she said of Aaron.
“I can’t get mad, because it’s not going to bring her back,” she said. “My heart is broken — and then for someone else to get their life took is crazy.”
The Hennepin County attorney’s office has declined to comment on either case.
Family was everything to Iesha, who had grown to love the role of doting aunt to her nieces and nephews, Teddie said. She played with them, took them shopping at the mall, and on trips to amusement parks and Chuck E. Cheese’s.
“They have the hardest time,” she said, motioning toward her grandchildren, as they scampered onto the playground at northeast Minneapolis one afternoon recently. “Iesha was like [their] second mom.”
Hundreds of people from the old neighborhood showed up for Iesha’s funeral, she said. Dozens more flew in from cities Iesha had visited over the years.
“That’s one of the things that keeps me going, saying, ‘Oh, my baby was loved,’” she said.