A nurse from Houston accused of running a red light and speeding into a Windsor Hills intersection, sparking a fiery chain-reaction crash that killed six people, including a pregnant mother, her infant son and unborn baby, was charged Monday with six counts of murder.
Nicole Lorraine Linton, 37, was also charged with five counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence for last Thursday’s crash at La Brea and Slauson avenues. Los Angeles County District Attorney George GascÃ³n said his office cannot file the manslaughter charge in a case involving an unborn child.
Linton — who made her first appearance in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Monday afternoon shortly after the charges were filed — was ordered to be held without bail at the prosecution’s request.
She is due back in court for a bail review hearing next Monday, with arraignment postponed until Oct. 26.
One of Linton’s attorneys, Halim Dhanidina, told the judge that the defense is conducting an investigation into “mental health issues,” and said he didn’t believe there was anything to justify treating Linton’s case equivalent to a capital murder case. He said she could reasonably post $300,000 bail.
Deputy District Attorney Brittany Vannoy had urged Superior Court Judge Natalie Stone to order Linton jailed without bail, saying that the defendant is accused of “traveling at an excessive speed” and proceeding through the intersection “despite being faced with a red light.”
The judge said Linton is potentially facing a very lengthy sentence if she is found guilty, noting that Los Angeles is not the woman’s home base or primary residence.
Linton could face up to 90 years to life in state prison if convicted as charged, according to GascÃ³n.
Linton was arrested Friday while she was still hospitalized for moderate injuries sustained in the crash, according to the California Highway Patrol. She was released from Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center over the weekend and had been held in lieu of $9 million bail at the Century Regional Detention Center, according to jail records.
According to a CHP statement: “Preliminary investigation indicates Nicole Lorraine Linton was driving a dark-colored Mercedes, traveling southbound on La Brea Avenue at a high rate of speed” when the crash occurred around 1:40 p.m. last Thursday.
“While driving the Mercedes, Linton proceeded through a red light and collided into multiple vehicles traveling eastbound and westbound on Slauson Avenue. As a result of this collision, multiple parties were ejected and two vehicles were fully engulfed in flames. Following the collision, involved parties were transported to (Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center) by ambulance and six individuals were declared deceased on scene,” the CHP continued.
A LinkedIn page for Nicole Lorraine Linton states she is a traveling nurse from Houston, employed by a health care staffing agency, and has been working in the intensive care unit at Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center.
Kaiser Permanente issued a statement Friday saying, “Everyone at Kaiser Permanente is deeply saddened by Thursday’s horrific crash. It’s impossible to imagine the pain those involved are experiencing. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragedy. At this time, we are not able to comment on what has been reported as a criminal investigation.”
The pregnant woman who died in the crash was identified Friday by the coroner’s office as 23-year-old Asherey Ryan of Los Angeles. She and her male fetus were among the victims killed in the crash that occurred just before 1:40 p.m. Thursday at La Brea and Slauson avenues, near Ladera Park.
Ryan is the only victim identified by name in the criminal complaint, with the other victims listed as “John Doe 1,” “John Doe 2,” “John Doe 3,” and “Jane Doe 1” and “Jane Doe 2.”
According to Ryan’s family, the woman’s 11-month-old son, Alonzo Quintero, was also killed, along with Ryan’s boyfriend, who was the father of her unborn son. Ryan’s boyfriend was driving the car that was struck, according to a video posted online by Ryan’s sister, Shoshanna Kerr.
Kerr identified him as Reynold Lester, 24, of Los Angeles, who worked as a security guard.
In the video, Kerr said Ryan was 8 1/2 months pregnant, and she was on her way to a doctor’s appointment when the crash occurred.
The family was planning to name the unborn infant Armani Lester, according to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.
“She left the house at 1:30. She woke me up,” Kerr said. “She woke me up and told me she was going to go to her doctor’s appointment, that she loved me and she’ll be right back.”
She said that 15 minutes later, she saw video of the car crash.
“And for some reason, as soon as I seen that video, it hit me. It felt different. I felt connected,” she said.
Kerr said she cried throughout the night.
“I didn’t sleep one bit,” she said. “I’m all cried out.”
Shoshanna Kerr also told reporters that Ryan’s family forgives the driver who caused the crash.
“I just want to tell her that we forgive her,” she said. “She will have to live with this for the rest of her life. That’s why she was spared. We understand it already.”
A GoFundMe page established on behalf of the family had raised nearly $145,000 as of Monday afternoon.
At an afternoon news conference shortly before the charges were filed, GascÃ³n said that “a young family was destroyed in the blink of an eye” as a result of the multi-vehicle crash, which also resulted in the deaths of two women in a Nissan Altima who have yet to be identified and six other people who were injured in two other vehicles.
“While the wreckage of this fiery crash at this intersection was removed and traffic eventually resumed, there is catastrophic damage to the families and friends of those killed and injured,” the county’s top prosecutor told reporters. “It’s not only a tremendous loss to the families, but our entire community who learned of this incredible tragedy or have now watched the now-viral video of the collision.”
The district attorney said there is “no evidence of any alcohol use at this point.”
Friends and family of the victims have gathered nightly at the crash site to remember and say goodbye to the victims. Lighted candles dotted a memorial near the site of the fiery crash. Saturday’s gathering included some LA County firefighters who were among the first to respond to the crash.
Dramatic surveillance video from the scene Thursday showed the Mercedes plowing through the 35 mph zone on La Brea at a speed authorities estimate neared 100 mph — speeding through a red light at Slauson and broad-siding a vehicle.
The crash ignited an inferno as the sedan struck by the Mercedes was pushed into at least one other vehicle, and both wound up against a gas station sign on the corner. A trail of fire was left burning in the intersection as the vehicles struck by the speeding driver were engulfed in flames.
CHP reports indicate eight vehicles, including Linton’s, were involved in the collision. The heavily damaged Mercedes ended up near a bench down the street.
The CHP reported a sixth victim was later found dead in the burned wreckage of one vehicle, but further information about that person has not been released.
Eight others were injured in the collision, including seven occupants of a Chevrolet Traverse. The 33-year-old driver, a year-old boy and three teenagers suffered moderate injuries, while two other teens inside the vehicle had only minor injuries.
The eighth victim — the 19-year-old driver of an Audi A3 — also suffered minor injuries.