Woman accused of Vegas Strip crash had improved her life

Lakeisha Holloway is scheduled to be in court Wednesday

Police and emergency crews respond to the scene of a car accident along Las Vegas Boulevard, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015, in Las Vegas. Police arrested Lakeisha N. Holloway, who faces a charge of murder. (AP Photo/John Locher, Las Vegas Metropolitan PD)
Police and emergency crews respond to the scene of a car accident along Las Vegas Boulevard, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015, in Las Vegas. Police arrested Lakeisha N. Holloway, who faces a charge of murder. (AP Photo/John Locher, Las Vegas Metropolitan PD)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Prosecutors in Nevada have charged a woman with murder, child abuse and felony hit-and-run after authorities say she repeatedly plowed her vehicle into crowds on the Las Vegas Strip.

This photo provided by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department shows Lakeisha N. Holloway, who police said smashed into crowds of pedestrians on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015, killing one person and injuring dozens. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)
This photo provided by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department shows Lakeisha N. Holloway, who police said smashed into crowds of pedestrians on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015, killing one person and injuring dozens. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

Documents filed Tuesday list the charges against 24-year-old Lakeisha Nicole Holloway, who is due in court Wednesday.

She is being held in jail without bail in Sunday’s crash that killed 1 and injured dozens. Police say her 3-year-old daughter was with her in the vehicle but wasn’t hurt.

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson has said prosecutors were considering “a great number” of additional charges against Holloway.

The crash killed 32-year-old Jessica Valenzuela of Buckeye, Arizona, and sent at least 35 people to hospitals, including three in critical condition.

Other victims are from Oregon, Florida, Colorado, California, Washington, Pennsylvania, Mexico and Canada.

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Not long ago, Lakeisha Holloway seemed to have turned her life around.

After a rough childhood that included a period of homelessness in high school, Lakeisha Nicole Holloway had become an award-winning high school graduate and caring mother.

The recent picture of success deepens the mystery of how the former Oregon woman wound up in a Las Vegas jail, suspected of killing one person and injuring nearly three dozen others.

Holloway, 24, was charged this week with murder and other counts after she plowed her Oldsmobile sedan down a sidewalk packed with tourists Sunday night while her 3-year-old daughter sat in the backseat, authorities said.

Las Vegas Metro Police crime scene analysts look over a sedan believed to have been involved in an incident where police said a woman intentionally swerved her car into pedestrians on the Las Vegas Strip, killing one person and injuring at least 30 others in Las Vegas, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
Las Vegas Metro Police crime scene analysts look over a sedan believed to have been involved in an incident where police said a woman intentionally swerved her car into pedestrians on the Las Vegas Strip, killing one person and injuring at least 30 others in Las Vegas, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

Police said video surveillance footage led them to believe Holloway deliberately swerved onto the sidewalk. They say she was homeless and out of money, sleeping in her car in parking garages. She might have been on her way to Texas to find the father of her daughter; the pair had split up some time ago.

After her arrest Sunday, Holloway “described a stressful period today where she was trying to rest/sleep inside her vehicle with her daughter but kept getting run off by security of the properties she stopped at,” a police report said.

“She ended up on the Strip, ‘a place she did not want to be,'” the 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.”

She parked at a casino a few blocks from the Strip, told a parking attendant that she had run down people and asked the valet to call 911, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said. Her daughter wasn’t hurt.

Police and emergency crews respond to the scene of a car accident along Las Vegas Boulevard, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Police and emergency crews respond to the scene of a car accident along Las Vegas Boulevard, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Holloway was stoic when police arrived, showed no resistance and spoke coherently about what happened, the sheriff said.

Authorities declined to comment on a potential motive and said they were struggling to piece together her background. Holloway had changed her name in October to Paris Paradise Morton, according to Oregon court records.

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Several years ago, Holloway, a graduate of an alternative high school, received an award for overcoming adversity from the nonprofit Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, which helps at-risk youths with education and job training.

Joe McFerrin, President and CEO of Portland OIC, Dec. 22, 2015 (KOIN)
Joe McFerrin, President and CEO of Portland OIC, Dec. 22, 2015 (KOIN)

At a press conference Tuesday, the President and CEO of POIC, Joe McFerrin II, said Holloway was a “role model for many of the youth we serve in the community.” He praised her involvement in the organization.

“She engaged with the services we offer, she followed though and took challenges head on. She was able to persevere and achieve the kind of accomplishments that would lead all of us to believe would put her on the path to success.”

He said despite being homeless her freshman year of high school, Holloway was very successful in the program and eventually landed a job with the US Forest Service.

In 2012, Holloway was recognized for her work in the program. McFerrin said shortly after that she became pregnant and left town and they lost touch with her. It is the goal of POIC to maintain contact with students until they are 25.

Lakeisha Holloway in a 2012 screen grab from a video by the Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center
Lakeisha Holloway in a 2012 screen grab from a video by the Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center

Court records show she was charged in Oregon in 2011 with operating a vehicle without driving privileges and driving uninsured. She was convicted in March 2012.

Holloway’s cousin, Lashay Hardaway, told The Oregonian newspaper that Holloway worked hard to provide for her daughter.

“She’s just always thinking about her daughter or the next thing she needs to take care of,” Hardaway said, adding that her cousin “makes good money.”

The crash happened in front of the Paris and Planet Hollywood casino-hotels and across from the Bellagio’s famed water fountains. The Miss Universe pageant was being held at Planet Hollywood at the time.

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 walkway twice, including once when it traveled 200 feet, police said.

A drug recognition expert at the scene determined that she was under the influence of some sort of stimulant, Lombardo said.

Holloway was jailed without bail ahead of an initial court appearance Wednesday. Prosecutors plan to charge her with murder with a deadly weapon, hit-and-run and child abuse.

Photos: Deadly crash on Las Vegas Strip

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said prosecutors were considering “a great number” of additional charges.

Holloway was under suicide watch, which raises questions about her mental state, said Scott Coffee, a deputy Clark County public defender appointed to represent her. Child welfare officials were caring for the woman’s daughter, a county spokesman said.

Of at least 35 victims taken to hospitals, three were 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, the Clark County coroner said.

Other victims were from Oregon, Florida, Colorado, California, Washington, Mexico and Quebec. Five Canadian citizens, four Oregon college wrestlers and five Pennsylvania wrestlers and their coach in town for a tournament were among the injured.

KOIN 6 Staff contributed to this report

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