Suspect in Vegas car-ramming to face murder charge

Jocelyne Zablit

Las Vegas (AFP) - A 24-year-old woman who repeatedly rammed her car into pedestrians on the packed Las Vegas Strip, killing one person and injuring more than 30, will be charged with murder, officials said.

Clark County District Attorney Steven Wolfson told reporters that additional charges would also be filed against Lakeisha Holloway, who had her three-year-old daughter in the car at the time of the incident Sunday night.

"Other charges we are considering are a multitude of counts of attempted murder," in addition to charges of child abuse and leaving the scene of an accident, Wolfson said.

Authorities said that as Holloway's car intentionally and repeatedly smashed into pedestrians at different spots on the busy Strip at about 6:30 pm, many witnesses tried to get her to stop, pounding on the windows and opening the doors of the vehicle.

After the rampage, she drove to a nearby hotel and asked a valet parking attendant to call the emergency services, Las Vegas Sheriff Joe Lombardo said.

"She didn't appear to be distressed due to her actions," Lombardo said, adding that the child was unharmed.

He said it appears Holloway, who is from the West Coast state of Oregon, was estranged from her daughter's father and was homeless and living in her car for the past week.

A spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Transportation told AFP that Holloway had her driving license suspended in 2012 for failing to comply with insurance requirements.

"In April 2013, her license was also suspended by the court because she did not pay the court fines related to that citation," Sally Ridenour said.

Authorities believe Holloway may have been passing through Las Vegas on her way to join her daughter's father in Texas.

Lombardo said Holloway, who had no previous criminal record, did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol, but a drug expert said she was "under some sort of stimulant."

"We don't know (what)... caused her to snap or whether it was planned previously," he said, describing Holloway as "stoic" at the time of her arrest.

Authorities have ruled out an act of terrorism for the time being while they check Holloway's background, Lombardo said.

Of the more than 30 injured, three are in critical condition, suffering from head injuries.

The victims are from several US states as well as Canada and Mexico, Lombardo said.

Authorities have identified the woman who died as Jessica Valenzuela, 32, of Arizona.

- 'Bodies like pins' -

The Las Vegas Strip, lined with casinos and fancy hotels, attracts throngs of tourists from around the world and is usually abuzz with activity.

The incident occurred on the same night that Las Vegas hosted the popular Miss Universe pageant, which saw the crowning of Miss Philippines at a venue not far from where the chaotic scene unfolded.

Witness Rabia Qureshi, a tourist from Wisconsin, told the local NBC station KSNV that the vehicle in question looked like "a bowling ball and the human bodies were like pins."

"You think it's a show, because you're in Vegas," Qureshi was quoted as saying by NBC News. "But then I saw some people fly in the air."

Another witness, Antonio Nassar, told CNN that as the vehicle jumped the curb "all you could see was (her) driving away, and people were bouncing off the front of the car."

"She... just kept mowing people down," Nassar said.