LAS VEGAS » A woman accused of intentionally plowing a car carrying her child through crowds of pedestrians on a Las Vegas Strip sidewalk will face a judge Wednesday on charges of murder, hit-and-run and child abuse.
Lakeisha Nicole Holloway’s initial court appearance likely won’t reveal why authorities say the former award-winning high school graduate mowed down tourists and put her 3-year-old daughter in danger.
Holloway, 24, plans to plead not guilty, according to Joseph Abood, one of her public defense attorneys. In Nevada, the plea is assumed during a first court appearance. Holloway won’t be asked to answer the charges until another hearing in coming weeks.
“We can all agree this is a shocking and tragic event,” Abood said as he expressed sympathy for the families of the victims.
The crash Sunday near the Paris Las Vegas resort killed Jessica Valenzuela of Arizona and injured at least 35 others from several states, Mexico and Canada. Three people were still in critical condition, and five others remained hospitalized.
Abood, who represented another driver in a similar crash on the Strip in September 2005, said he will need to see police reports, witness accounts and video before deciding on Holloway’s defense.
Holloway is on suicide watch in jail, where she is being held without bail. The lawyer said Holloway’s mental health could become an issue but that she had not had a psychological evaluation.
Casino and street surveillance video shows the 1996 Oldsmobile driving down a sidewalk and hitting tourists, while avoiding street signs, light poles and other vehicles, authorities say. The car swerved back onto Las Vegas Boulevard and then onto the sidewalk again. The video may not be made public until a later court hearing.
“I’ve personally seen the videos from a variety of angles, and I’m appalled at the callousness of this defendant’s conduct and what appears to be an intentional act,” Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said.
He said he expects “a great number” of other charges to be filed, including attempted murder with a deadly weapon.
The felony charge of child abuse and neglect accuses Holloway of endangering her daughter, who was riding in the backseat. The girl wasn’t hurt in the crash, and child welfare officials are caring for her.
Holloway is from Oregon, where she changed her name in October to Paris Paradise Morton. She won honors for overcoming a rough childhood and homelessness to graduate from an alternative high school in Portland.
She was featured in a 2012 video produced by the nonprofit Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, which helps at-risk youths with education and job training. She said she was going to college and entering the workforce.
“Today I’m not the same scared girl I used to be,” Holloway said in the video. “I’m a mature young woman.”
The U.S. Forest Service hired her to do administrative work in its Portland office. Holloway joined the agency in 2009 and resigned in 2012, spokesman Glen Sachet said. She took a four-month break in late 2010.
Holloway had been in Las Vegas for about a week, authorities said. After her arrest Sunday, she told police that she was broke, homeless and tired of being shooed away from casino parking garages, where she and her daughter would sleep in the car.
She might have been on her way to Texas to find the girl’s estranged father, authorities said.
The Strip was “a place she did not want to be,” according to an arrest report.
“She would not explain why she drove onto the sidewalk but remembered a body bouncing off her windshield, breaking it,” the report said.
People jumped on the car and banged on its windows, but Holloway kept driving, authorities say. She went about a mile with the broken windshield and a flattened tire before pulling into an off-Strip hotel and telling a valet to call 911.
A police drug-recognition expert said she wasn’t drunk but may have been under the influence of a stimulant. Results of blood testing for drugs and alcohol were not yet known, Wolfson said.
Associated Press writers Gosia Wozniacka and Steven DuBois in Portland, Oregon, and Kimberly Pierceall in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
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