A registered nurse was charged Monday with six counts of murder and five counts of gross vehicular manslaughter in connection with a fiery crash in Windsor Hills last week that killed a pregnant woman, a baby and three other adults, the Los Angeles County district attorney announced.
Nicole Lorraine Linton, 37, is accused of reckless disregard for life in connection with Thursday’s multi-vehicle crash. Prosecutors say the Los Angeles woman was behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz that was speeding as fast as 90 mph when she ran a red light shortly after 1:30 p.m. and plowed into traffic at the busy intersection of La Brea and Slauson avenues.
For the record:
4:17 p.m. Aug. 8, 2022A previous version of this article described Alonzo Quintero as the child of Asherey Ryan and Reynold Lester. Lester is not the boy’s father.
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón said Linton faces up to life in prison if convicted of all charges.
“In an instant, Ms. Linton’s conduct took the lives of six people and injured many others,” Gascón said.
To get a second-degree murder conviction, prosecutors must prove she acted with implied malice and knew the act of driving at a high speed on city streets was dangerous to human life.
Usually, such cases are brought if the driver is under the influence and has a prior DUI conviction and has taken DUI education classes. In Linton’s case, investigators found she has a history of dangerous crashes and knew the threat posed by her driving behavior, prosecutors said.
California Highway Patrol investigators identified 13 prior crashes involving Linton. Those incidents are the foundation for the district attorney’s case that she knew the dangers of reckless driving.
However, Gascón said there is no evidence of any alcohol use by Linton at this point.
“I know that some of you spoke to a woman that alleged they have been drinking together. The CHP is working to identify this person, but we don’t have any further information,” he said.
The district attorney declined to discuss what prompted the crash, saying it was still under investigation and he was “not going to get into the details.”
The murder charges against Linton are for the deaths of 23-year-old Asherey Ryan; her nearly 1-year-old child, Alonzo Quintero; her boyfriend, Reynold Lester; and their unborn child. Ryan was 8½ months pregnant when she was killed. The boy she was carrying at the time was named Armani Lester, according to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office. His date of birth and date of death fell on the same day.
“A young family was destroyed in the blink of an eye,” Gascón said in announcing the charges against Linton.
Linton also was charged with murder for the deaths of two women killed in the crash who have yet to be identified. The five counts of vehicular manslaughter against her are for the deaths of the four adults and the baby, who was about two weeks shy of 1 year old. Ryan’s unborn child cannot be included in those charges.
Surveillance video just before Thursday’s deadly crash shows a dark-colored Mercedes barreling down La Brea Avenue at high speed as dozens of cars cross on Slauson.
The Mercedes does not appear to slow before running a red light and slamming into cars in the intersection. The car bursts into flames and hurtles into a light pole, where it comes to rest. After the crash, a streak of fire burned on the ground and billowing smoke could be seen from miles away.
At least six vehicles were involved in the crash, according to CHP investigators. In addition to the fatalities, eight people were injured.
Linton was hospitalized with moderate injuries for several days before being taken into police custody.
Photographs posted online after the crash appear to show Linton sitting on the curb with a bloody arm. She seems to be wearing hospital scrub pants and a shirt that has writing on the breastplate and sleeve.
Images from the scene show massive front-end damage to the Mercedes, which rammed headfirst into a light pole. A law enforcement source told The Times that Linton suffered a broken foot and broken wrist in the collision, but the car’s advanced air bag systems for a front-end collision seem to have shielded her from the worst of the impact.
A specialized CHP accident investigation team is extracting data from the Mercedes’ computers that capture speed, braking and acceleration. That team worked through the weekend preparing an investigation for prosecutors who specialize in handling deadly vehicular incidents.
On Monday, Linton appeared in court sitting in a wheelchair while wearing a blue safety vest and a bandage around her left arm.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Natalie Stone denied her bail, which previously had been set at $9 million, at the request of the district attorney’s office, which said she is a flight risk. Linton’s permanent address is in Texas, and she’s currently renting a room in Los Angeles as a traveling nurse. She was set to travel to Hawaii for work, prosecutors said.
Attorney Halim Dhanidina asked the court to continue Linton’s arraignment to October because he is reviewing her out-of-state history of “documented profound mental health issues.”
Dhanidina did not elaborate on Linton’s mental health but said the Windsor Hills crash could be linked to those factors.
“She should have been aware of her limitations” before she got behind the wheel, the judge said in denying Linton’s bail. A hearing on the matter was set for Aug. 15.
Prosecutors said they are reviewing multiple previous crashes linked to Linton — both in and out of California — including one in 2020 that involved bodily injury in which two cars were totaled. Attorneys did not elaborate on the nature of Linton’s involvement in those crashes.
Linton sobbed and waved to a family member before being wheeled away after the hearing. Her attorney declined to comment on the murder case.
Outside the courtroom, Lester’s mother, Latanda Guy, and his sister, Dala Guy, held a poster with pictures of him over the years.
“There are so many questions that remain as to what happened,” said Latanda Guy, a registered nurse in Los Angeles County.
Dala Guy described her brother as goofy and full of jokes. He recently started a job as a security guard.
“He was just building his family,” his mother said of Lester and Ryan and their unborn child. “They were looking forward to starting a family.”
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