By KEN RITTER
LAS VEGAS (AP) – A woman accused of intentionally plowing a car carrying her young daughter through crowds of pedestrians on the Las Vegas Strip was charged Tuesday with murder, child abuse and hit-and-run.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said he expects to file additional charges against Lakeisha Nicole Holloway, 24, in coming days.
"This is an ongoing investigation with many items of video, physical evidence and many, many witnesses to be interviewed," Wolfson said. "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."
The casino surveillance video has not been made public, and Wolfson said prosecutors don’t plan to present it in court Wednesday, when Holloway is scheduled to make her first appearance.
One of Holloway’s public defense attorneys, Joseph Abood, said she plans to plead not guilty.
Authorities say Holloway repeatedly swerved Sunday onto the sidewalk packed with tourists in front of the Paris Las Vegas and Planet Hollywood casino-hotels.
The crash killed Jessica Valenzuela, 32, of Buckeye, Arizona, and injured at least 35 people from California, Colorado, Florida, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington state, Mexico and Quebec, Canada. Three were still in critical condition Tuesday and five others remained hospitalized.
"We can all agree this is a shocking and tragic event," Abood said. "We have great sympathy for the family of Jessica Valenzuela and all the other people who were injured."
Holloway is on suicide watch in jail, where she is being held without bail. Abood said he and another public defender, Scott Coffee, were still collecting information and didn’t know whether Holloway’s mental health will emerge as a defense.
Holloway was charged with the felony child abuse and neglect because police say her 3-year-old daughter was with her in the vehicle. The child wasn’t hurt and is now in custody of child protective services.
Authorities have said a motive for the crash was unclear. But a picture is emerging of a woman who overcame a rough childhood and homelessness to become an award-winning high school graduate and caring mother – only to have it go terribly awry.
Holloway previously lived in Oregon, where she changed her name in October to Paris Paradise Morton, according to court records.
Several years ago, she graduated from an alternative high school in Portland and received an award for overcoming adversity from the nonprofit Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, which helps at-risk youths with education and job training.
After she was arrested Sunday, she told investigators she was homeless and out of money, sleeping in her car in casino parking garages. She said she was getting little rest because casino security would force her out. She might have been on her way to Texas to find the estranged father of her daughter, authorities said.
"She ended up on the Strip, ‘a place she did not want to be,’" a police report quoted her as saying. "She would not explain why she drove onto the sidewalk but remembered a body bouncing off her windshield, breaking it."
People jumped on the car and banged on its windows, but Holloway kept driving, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said. She went about a mile with a broken windshield and a flattened tire before pulling into an off-Strip hotel and telling a valet to call 911.
Holloway no showed no resistance when police arrived and spoke coherently about what happened, the sheriff said. A police drug-recognition expert said it appeared she wasn’t drunk but may have been under the influence of a stimulant.
Associated Press writers Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix, Gosia Wozniacka and Steven DuBois in Portland, Oregon, and Kimberly Pierceall and Brian Skoloff in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
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