The Las Vegas strip was the scene of a felony hit and run on Dec. 20, 2015. According to witnesses, more than 40 people were intentionally run down on the sidewalk, leaving one dead and 37 injured. The driver, Lakeisha Holloway, 24, has been charged with murder, felony child abuse/neglect, as well as hit and run in the Las Vegas tragedy At the time of the alleged felony, she was driving on a suspended Oregon driver’s license.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson told reporters it is likely Holloway will be charged with more crimes as the investigation unfolds. Her three-year-old daughter, who was in the back seat of the car during the event, is now in the custody of Las Vegas Child Protective Services.
Joseph Abood, one of Holloway’s public defenders, explained she will enter a plea of not guilty to the charges of murder, child abuse, hit and run, as well as any other related charges that may be brought forth. She is currently in jail, on suicide watch, and is being held without bail. The public defenders on her case have yet to determine whether Holloway’s mental health will be part of her defense, according to The Globe and Mail.
After her arrest in Las Vegas on Dec. 20, 2015, Holloway told officials she was living in her car because she was homeless and did not have any money. She had been sleeping in her car in various casino parking areas. Moreover, she claimed she was continuously kicked out of those spaces by security guards, so she was overtired and stressed.
Abood told reporters, “We can all agree this is a shocking and tragic event. We have great sympathy for the family of Jessica Valenzuela and all the other people who were injured.”
According to ABC News, Valenzuela died from the accident, as reported by the Clark County Coroner’s Office. The deceased, 32, from Buckeye, Arizona, was survived by her husband and three daughters. She was the first victim transported from the scene and pronounced dead a short time later.
USA Today reported there were victims from Oregon, Florida, Colorado, California, Washington, Mexico, and Quebec. Of the 37 injured, as of Dec. 22, 2015, four of them are in critical condition, and five others were still in Las Vegas hospitals.
Witnesses reported Holloway had her hands on the steering wheel and appeared to be focused while she repeatedly swerved on and off the sidewalk, striking pedestrians in her path. People jumped onto her car and were pounding on her windows to get her attention. Bodies were flying and one hit her windshield breaking it.
Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo stated she drove away from the scene with a broken windshield and flat tire. About a mile from the scene, she stopped her vehicle, left her daughter in the back seat, and walked over to the valet of an off-strip hotel. Holloway told him what she had done and told him to call 911.
The sheriff also stated that she was coherent, understood what had happened, and it appeared she was not intoxicated. However, a drug recognition expert for the police said Holloway may have been under the influence of some type of stimulant.
Authorities stated they do not have a clear motive. She was homeless in her youth, but she overcame and graduated high school with a 3.0. While attending junior college, she was employed by The Oregon Forestry Department. Holloway’s success garnered her an award from Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center. Somehow, all of her hard work turned into a disaster that left her homeless as an adult, and eventually, resulted in the crimes she committed in Las Vegas.
According to The Oregonian, Holloway told the police, while being questioned, that she could not explain why she ran down the pedestrians and claimed to be sober at the time of the incident. However, when her toxicology reports were released on Dec. 30, 2015, she tested positive for marijuana and related metabolites.
Court records indicate that Holloway’s next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 20, 2016.
According to AZ Family News, there has been a GoFundMe account set up to help cover the costs of transporting Valenzuela’s body back to Arizona, as well as her funeral. The December 21 press conference with Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, regarding the investigation into Holloway’s case and announcing the charge of murder associated with the hit and run on Las Vegas Blvd., is presented in the video footage below.
By Cathy Milne
Edited by Jeanette Smith
USA Today: Driver in Las Vegas Strip crash ‘stressed’ by security guards harassing her
Reuters: Driver who plowed into Las Vegas crowd charged with murder
ABC News: Lakeisha Holloway to Be Charged With Murder in Deadly Las Vegas Strip Crash, Police Say
AZ Family Channel 3 News: Buckeye woman confirmed dead in Las Vegas crash
The Oregonian: Lakeisha Holloway, driver in fatal Las Vegas Strip crash, had marijuana in system, DA says
Featured Image Courtesy of Victor Villanueva’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Top Image Courtesy of Atlantic Group’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License