LAS VEGAS (AP) — A homeless woman accused of slamming a car carrying her 3-year-old daughter into a crowd of pedestrians on the Las Vegas Strip was likely on her way to Dallas to find the girl’s estranged father, authorities said Monday.
Suspect Lakeisha Holloway, 24, resided in Oregon and had been in Las Vegas for about a week in her 1996 Oldsmobile sedan, parking it at garages throughout the city, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said.
Investigators said she ran out of money and they believe she was headed to Dallas to find her daughter’s father after they had a falling out.
Police believe Holloway intentionally mowed down people on a busy stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard, killing a woman from Arizona and injuring dozens of others on Sunday night.
After the crash, she parked at a casino a few blocks away, told a parking attendant that she had run down people and asked the valet to call 911, Lombardo said. Her daughter, who was in the backseat, was not hurt.
The sheriff said Holloway was stoic when police arrived, showed no resistance and spoke coherently about what happened. He declined to elaborate on what she said.
“She didn’t appear to be distressed due to her actions. That’s the best way I can describe it,” Lombardo said.
Authorities declined to comment on a potential motive and said they were struggling to piece together Holloway’s background.
She changed her name to Paris Paradise Morton in October, according to Oregon court records.
Several years ago, Holloway, a graduate of an alternative high school, received an award for overcoming adversity from the nonprofit Portland Opportunities Industrial Center.
In 2012, she told The Skanner, a newspaper that covers Portland’s African-American community, that she was homeless during her freshman year in high school.
Holloway’s cousin, Lashay Hardaway, told The Oregonian that Holloway worked hard to provide for her daughter. She disputed that Holloway was homeless and said she rented a room in Las Vegas.
The crash happened in front of the Paris and Planet Hollywood casino-hotels and across from dancing water fountains of the Bellagio hotel-casino. Visitors to the stretch walk from one casino to another.
The Miss Universe pageant was being held nearby at Planet Hollywood.
People jumped on the car and banged on its windows, but Holloway didn’t stop driving on the sidewalk, Lombardo said. The car was fully on the sidewalk twice, including once when it traveled for 200 feet, police said.
There was no evidence that Holloway had consumed alcohol, but a drug recognition expert at the scene determined that she was under the influence of some sort of stimulant, Lombardo said.
Holloway, who was being held without bail, will be charged with murder with a deadly weapon, said Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, who anticipated “a great number” of additional charges.
“When a person drives a 2,000-pound-plus motor vehicle intentionally onto a sidewalk, killing and injuring scores of people, that’s murder,” Wolfson said.
Holloway was under suicide watch at jail, said Deputy Clark County Public Defender Scott Coffee said. He said it was too early to say if he would pursue an insanity defense.
At least 35 people injured in the crash were taken to hospitals, including three people still in critical condition with head injuries, officials said.
The crash killed Jessica Valenzuela, 32, of Buckeye, Arizona, who was visiting Las Vegas with her husband, according to the Clark County coroner.
Other victims were from Oregon, Florida, Colorado, California, Washington, Mexico, and Quebec, Canada. Five were Canadian citizens, and four were Oregon college students in town to compete in a wrestling tournament.
Among the injured were five wrestlers and their coach from Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Another four were wresters from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon.
Justin Cochrane of Santa Barbara, California, said the car appeared to be going 30 to 40 mph when it struck the pedestrians.
“It was just massacring people,” said Cochrane, who was having dinner at a sidewalk restaurant outside the Paris hotel.
Cochrane said he couldn’t understand why the driver went into the crowd a second time. He saw children and adults injured on the ground as the car drove away.
“Why would it slow to go around and then accelerate again?” he said. “I thought, ‘It’s a crazy person.'”