On June 14, 2012, at about 5:30 a.m., Hae Soon Lim arrived at Grace Deli, the popular store she owned on H Street in Northeast D.C. She parked her vehicle directly in front, walked to the carry-out door and began to open the lock when Steven Vondell Williams, a convicted robber and occasional customer at Lim’s deli, approached her with the intent to rob the store.
Grace Deli never opened that morning, nor has it opened any morning since.
Police found 65-year-old Lim lying on the floor behind the counter of the deli with a single gunshot wound to the back of her neck. Two cash registers, one used for general transactions and one for lottery sales, were found on the counter, empty; the store’s ATM was discovered open and empty; and a handbag Lim used to carry hundreds of dollars in cash from her home to the store each morning was never recovered at all.
An empty handgun holster was found next to Lim’s body. Investigators later determined that Williams’ DNA matched samples recovered from the holster and from one of the empty cash drawers.
Williams pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in connection with Lim’s death in April. He was sentenced by Judge Robert Morin Friday to 27 years in prison in accordance with that plea agreement.
“I take full responsibility for what I did,” Williams said at sentencing. “I make no excuses; I am truly sorry for all the pain I have caused everybody.”
Lim’s son, Peter Lim, attended the sentencing and spoke about the financial and emotional hardship the family has endured since his mother’s death. He said that having to celebrate birthdays and holidays without her for the first time has been particularly difficult. And in September, he said, Lim’s first grandchild, Peter Lim’s son, was born; the moment was bittersweet.
“[Hae Soon Lim] was really excited for her first grandchild to be born,” Peter Lim told an emotional courtroom. “The hardest part is that she won’t be there to see him grow. It hurts my heart that my mom will never be there to hold him and be a grandparent.”
Peter Lim said that since his mother’s death he has really come to understand the positive impact she had on the community. Hae Soon Lim saw beyond racial, economic and gender divide; and she would often prepare food and give it to homeless people at cost, even though deli profits were small, Peter said.
“I always knew my mother was a really good person,” Peter Lim said. “But through this tragedy I have come to realize she was a great person.”
Judge Morin said Friday that the case involving Lim’s death was Williams’ sixth conviction and twentieth arrest, some of which were for armed robbery. At the time of Lim’s murder, Williams was out on parole, Morin said.
Sentencing documents are below.