LOS ANGELES (AP) — The driver suspected of causing a fiery crash that killed five people, including a pregnant woman, was charged Monday with murder.
Nicole Lorraine Linton was charged with six counts of murder and five counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. One murder charge was filed for the pregnant woman's unborn child.
She could face 90 years to life in prison if convicted of all charges.
Linton, a 37-year-old traveling nurse from Houston, Texas, made her first court appearance Monday after being released from a hospital over the weekend. Linton, who appeared in a wheelchair, didn't enter a plea and her arraignment was continued to October. She was ordered held without bail pending a bail hearing next week.
Prosecutors said Linton's Mercedes-Benz was doing 90 mph (144 kph) last Thursday when it ran a red light and smashed into cars in a crowded intersection in unincorporated Windsor Hills about 10 miles (16 km) southwest of downtown Los Angeles. Several victims were thrown from the cars and several vehicles caught fire.
The crash killed 23-year-old Asherey Ryan, her 11-month-old son Alonzo Quintero and her boyfriend, Reynold Lester, Sha’seana Kerr said in a GoFundMe posting.
Lester’s family told KABC-TV that the 24-year-old security guard was the father of Ryan’s 8 1/2-month-old unborn child. The family has said Ryan was on the way to a doctor’s appointment for a prenatal checkup when she was killed.
One murder charge — but not an additional charge of vehicular manslaughter — was filed for the fetus, who was identified by the coroner’s office as Armani Lester and listed as born on the same day he died.
“A young family was destroyed in the blink of an eye,” District Attorney George Gascón said at a news conference.
Two other women were also killed but their names weren’t made public as of Monday.
“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," Gascón said. “It is not only a tremendous loss to the families but our entire community who learned of this incredible tragedy or have watched the now viral video of the collision," he said.
In court, Linton's lawyer, Halim Dhanidina, said his client has an out-of-state history of “profound mental health issues” that might be linked to the crash but didn’t specify, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Authorities said they haven't found any evidence that Linton was under the influence of alcohol but prosecutors said she had at least 13 previous crashes — including a 2020 injury accident that totaled two cars — and knew the threat posed by her driving behavior, the Times said.