PORTLAND, Ore. -- Lakeisha Holloway sauntered into the courtroom and stood expressionless Wednesday, as she faced charges that could potentially lead to the death penalty in Las Vegas.
Holloway, who lived in Portland until a week ago, was officially charged with murder with a deadly weapon, failing to stop at the scene of an accident, child abuse and child neglect.
Clark County, Nevada District Attorney Steve Wolfson said he expects "a great number" of additional charges will be filed as the investigation continues, including more than 30 counts of attempted murder.
"I've personally seen the videos from a variety of angles, and I'm appalled at the callousness of this defendant's conduct and what appears to be an intentional act," Wolfson said.
In contrast, public defender Joseph Abood said Holloway is upset over what happened and will likely enter a not guilty plea.
“She’s distraught. This is tragic for everybody involved and as the days go by and the gravity of what happened sinks in, I suspect that she is going to be in a very difficult mental state," Abood told reporters after the court hearing.
According to the police report, Holloway said she was "obviously behind the wheel" when her car plowed into a crowded sidewalk in Las Vegas Sunday.
She said she remembers a body bouncing off her windshield and breaking it, according to the report. Officers described her description as deliberate and matter-of-fact, although she never explained why she hit the people with her car, killing one person and injuring many others.
Holloway's Portland past
Just a little over three years ago, Lakeisha Holloway beamed as a crowd of Portland city leaders gave her a standing ovation.
They were celebrating her determination and success in breaking the cycle of homelessness and graduating from high school with a 3.4 GPA and $17,000 in scholarships.
Back in 1012, Holloway was a success story for a program that helped at-risk youth.
Then-Mayor Sam Adams was there, along with other Portland dignitaries, when Holloway shared her story. As reported by the Skanner, said her mother gave up hope and put her out on the street when she was just a freshman in high school. It was devastating at first, but Holloway said she was able to turn her life around, with the help of a non-profit organization.
The Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center honored Holloway on that day – April 5, 2012 - with a special award for being a role model for other youth.
Just a few months later, she posted a smiling photo on Facebook, looking healthy with a baby bump and letting friends know she had a little one on the way.
“Today I am not the same scared girl I used to be. I am a mature young woman who has broken many generational cycles that those before hadn’t,” she said in the video. “Being homeless and struggling on my own taught me to stand on my own two feet. I managed to land a federal job at age 21 – now that is what I call living the grand life.”
U.S. Forest Service spokesman Glen Sachet said Holloway worked for them starting in 2009 and took a four-month break in 2010. She was performing administrative functions for the agency before resigning in 2012.
Over the next year, Holloway stayed connected with POIC and worked closely with its youth employment staff, according to a statement issued by the organization late Monday.
She also attended classes at Portland State University and Portland Community College. Family members said she worked hard in school and was a loving mother.
"She's such a beautiful person. She's very successful," said LaShay Hardaway, who identified herself as one of Holloway's cousins.
Court records show Holloway was charged in Multnomah County in 2011 with operating a vehicle without driving privileges and driving uninsured. She was convicted in March 2012.
In 2013, Holloway started to grow distant from people she knew in Portland. POIC said she cut off her involvement with them around that time.
"It’s hard to believe that Lakeisha did this, she was such a great kid while she was a part of our program,” an unnamed Youth Employment staff member said in the POIC statement.
Less than two months ago, Holloway filed a petition to change her name to Paris Paradise Morton and a judge granted permission on Oct. 30th.
Sheria Agum, another of Holloway's cousins, told Daily Mail reporters that Lakeisha changed her phone number shortly after that, and “went off the radar.”
She added that, around that same time, Holloway visited Texas and seemed like a different person when she returned.
“I have never seen my cousin like that. Her whole attitude changed. She was having problems down there. When she came back she was different,” Agum said.
Holloway, now 24, had a Portland address up until one week ago, and also lived in Vancouver for a short time in 2015.
But in December of 2015, Holloway was once again out on the streets - this time, living out of a car with her own young daughter in Las Vegas.
She used that car to deliberately ram into more than 35 pedestrians walking along the Las Vegas Strip, according to Clark County, Nevada Sheriff Joe Lombardo.
Witnesses said she was "stoic" after the rampage, telling a parking valet what she had done and calmly asking him to call 911. Then she parked her car outside a hotel about a mile away from the crash scene and walked away, leaving her 3-year-old daughter alone in the back seat, Lombardo said.
Holloway was found and arrested a short time later. Investigators so far have no motive and no specific information from Holloway explaining what may have driven her to the violent attack.
According to the police report, Holloway told investigators she had been parking her car in front of different properties in Vegas, including the Planet Hollywood hotel-casino, for days. She would sleep inside the car with her daughter, except some nights when parking attendants would order her to leave.
She described being especially stressed on Sunday morning because she "kept getting run off by security" when she was trying to get some sleep, according to the police report.
Investigators said she had also run out of money, and may have been trying to get to Dallas, Texas, to see her daughter's father. The pair had a recent “falling out” and they were no longer together, Lombardo said.
Holloway was being held without bail in the Clark County, Nevada Detention Center. Authorities said Tuesday she was placed on suicide watch.
Her Las Vegas mug shot is a stark contrast to the smiling face in the photos from the 2012 Portland award ceremony or her Facebook page, which hasn't been updated in months.
The daughter she adored is now in child protective custody. She may be relinquished to the care of relatives soon, authorities said.
The victims in the Las Vegas crash, including people from Oregon, Florida, Colorado, California, Washington, Mexico and Quebec, were taken to hospitals. The injured included four student athletes on the Pacific University wrestling team in Forest Grove. The person who died was a 32-year-old Arizona woman visiting Vegas with her husband.
Sheriff Lombardo said Holloway did not appear to be drunk, but may have taken stimulants before the crash. A blood sample was sent to the crime lab for testing.
Lombardo said video from the scene clearly indicated that Holloway's Sunday attack was deliberate. But he added, "We don't know what caused her to snap and whether it was planned previously."
Family members said they, too, are shocked and have no idea what could have caused such a drastic change in the Lakeisha they knew.
Still stunned by what happened in Vegas, Hardaway said her cousin was very tired lately and possibly that caused the crash.
"She's been more exhausted. She's just ambitious and just loves to work," Hardaway said. "What those other families are seeing is this villain who is projected on TV. What our family is seeing, is this person that we know, that is like two different people."
Holloway’s first court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday, December 23, at 8 a.m. in Clark County Justice Court.
“Our hearts go out to the victims and their families,” said DA Wolfson. “This is a horrendous and inexcusable act that has needlessly and tragically impacted countless lives. I am confident that, as the investigation unfolds, we will be filing many more charges against Ms. Holloway.”
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