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

Sad circumstances surround driver accused of driving into Las Vegas crowd

Though she had a history of significant achievements, the woman who allegedly drove her car into pedestrians in Las Vegas was homeless, out of money, and sleeping in her car in parking garages at the time of the incident. 

Lakeisha Holloway, the driver accused of deliberately and repeatedly plowing her car into pedestrians on a busy sidewalk on the famous Las Vegas Strip on Sunday, was going through significant challenges at the time of the incident.

After her arrest, Ms. Holloway told detectives she had a stressful time on Sunday. She "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."

Authorities said they were struggling to piece together Holloway's background.

Though she had a difficult childhood, Holloway had overcome hardship to become an award-winning high school graduate and caring mother, according to reports. 

In 2012, she received an award from a Portland career-mentoring nonprofit for being a role model for high school students, according to The Skanner, a community website in the Pacific Northwest.

In the story, Holloway described her mother as having "turned to alcohol, leaving Lakeisha to fend for herself." The Skanner reported that Holloway was homeless during her freshman year in high school, but had since graduated.

Holloway had her 3-year-old daughter with her in her 1996 Oldsmobile at the time of the crash that left one person dead and injured dozens of others. The child was uninjured and is in protective custody, Las Vegas/Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said.

Lashay Hardaway, Holloway's cousin, said 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."

She had changed her name to Paris Paradise Morton in October, according to Oregon court records. The records also show that she was charged in Oregon in 2011 with operating a vehicle without driving privileges and driving uninsured. She was convicted in March 2012.

The police did not comment on a potential motive, but this is not the first an intentional crash has alarmed and puzzled law enforcement this fall, as The Christian Science Monitor reported on Monday: 

Adacia Chambers, also in her 20s, has been charged with killing four people when she drove into a crowd at the Oklahoma State homecoming parade on Oct. 24. Her defense attorney insists she is mentally ill, although on Dec. 10 the judge in her case ruled her competent to stand trial.

Even if the driver in the Las Vegas case turns out to be somehow inhibited in her judgment, she could face charges that she knew driving repeatedly into a crowd would hurt someone. In Nov. 2015, a jury found Rashad Owens guilty of murder for killing four while driving drunk into a crowd at the March 2014 SXSW music festival, the Austin American Statesman reported.

Holloway has been held by authorities pending a formal bail hearing, when she is likely to be charged with murder with a deadly weapon, according to Clark County (Nev.) District Attorney Steve Wolfson.

Deputy Clark County Public Defender Scott Coffee said Holloway was under suicide watch at jail.

This report contains material from The Associated Press.

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