On the same night that Steve Harvey announced the wrong winner of Miss Universe, not far from Planet Hollywood, where the competition was taking place, 24-year-old Lakeisha Holloway was driving on the sidewalk of the Las Vegas Strip. She was hitting pedestrians as her 3-year-old daughter sat in the back of the woman’s 1996 Oldsmobile. The crash, according to ABC News, killed 32-year-old Jessica Valenzuela of Buckeye, Ariz., and injured more than 30 other people. Police and witnesses claim that she intentionally did it, doing what she could to propel the car forward and back onto the sidewalk when it would stall. Holloway is facing multiple charges for Sunday night’s crash. According to CNN, today, she was formally charged with three felonies: murder with a deadly weapon, one count of leaving the scene of an accident, and child abuse for having her 3-year-old with her during the incident.
Despite the charges, the mugshot, and the accounts of her behavior on Sunday, those who knew Holloway a few years back in Portland, Ore., saw her in an entirely different light. She was, at one point, a 21-year-old who worked a 1.41 GPA in high school up to a 3.4, according to The Root. And her turnaround, from being a homeless teen, allegedly kicked out of her home by an alcoholic mom, to a promising student, helped her earn $17,000 in scholarships and become a first-generation college student.
“Boy, have I come a long ways,” Holloway said while telling her story in a video from the Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center in 2012. “I was a scared little girl who knew that there was more to life outside of crime, drug addiction, lower income, alcoholism, being undereducated—all of which I grew up being familiar with.”
But things changed for Holloway. She obviously had a child, legally changed her name to Paris Paradise Morton in October, and found herself in Las Vegas, for about a week according to authorities, living out of her car with her child.
And according to Holloway (which is what authorities have continued to call her, hence why we are too), what may have prompted her to follow through with running down people on the Strip was the fact that was reportedly dealing with a high level of stress. Throughout Sunday evening, she said that she was trying to park and sleep alongside her daughter, in her car, but was continuously told to move her vehicle by security at the properties she stopped at. She eventually ended up on the famed Strip.
After running down people, Holloway eventually raced away from the scene, coming to a stop at a nearby hotel. She told a security officer to call police because she had hit several people. This, according to her arrest report.
The 24-year-old reportedly was taken into custody and since, has been pretty apathetic and quiet. Her blood was drawn, and Holloway said that she didn’t have any drugs and alcohol in her system.
The family of Holloway said that what they’ve heard about the crash doesn’t make sense when they think of the young woman they know.
“None of it made any sense,” said Lashay Hardaway, Holloway’s cousin. “It just didn’t add up to who she is. She loved her family, she loved her daughter, she loved God, this was just traumatic for everybody.”
And very confusing for a young woman who had so much potential.
“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,” Holloway said in that Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center 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.”