LAS VEGAS—It wasn’t long ago that the woman arrested in the deadly Las Vegas Strip sidewalk crash seemed to be doing well for herself.
After a rough childhood that included a period of homelessness in high school, Lakeisha Holloway had become an award-winning high school graduate and caring mother.
That recent picture of success deepens the mystery of how the former Oregon woman wound up in a Las Vegas jail and on suicide watch. The 24-year-old Holloway faces murder charges after authorities said she plowed her Oldsmobile into a sidewalk of tourists Sunday night, killing one person and injuring three dozen others while her 3-year-old daughter sat in the back seat.
After reviewing video surveillance footage, police said they believe Holloway drove up on the sidewalk deliberately.
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 meet with the father of her daughter; the pair had split up some time ago.
After her arrest, 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 states.
“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 crash site, 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.
The sheriff said Holloway was stoic when police arrived, showed no resistance and spoke coherently about what happened.
Authorities declined to comment on a potential motive and said they were struggling to piece together Holloway’s background.
She had 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.
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 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 was a working mother who “makes good money.”
The crash happened in front of the Paris and Planet Hollywood casino-hotels and across from dancing water fountains of the Bellagio hotel-casino. The Miss Universe pageant was being held at Planet Hollywood at the time of the crash.
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 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.
Holloway was under suicide watch at jail, said Deputy Clark County Public Defender Scott Coffee said. A Clark County spokesman said the woman’s daughter was being cared for by child protective services.
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. Five were Canadian citizens, and four were Oregon college students in town to compete in a wrestling tournament.
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.