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Mercedes driver involved in 13 prior wrecks before crash that killed 5, DA says

Aug. 9, 2022 Updated Tue., Aug. 9, 2022 at 8:46 p.m.

California Highway Patrol and other officials investigate a fiery crash in which multiple people were killed near a Windsor Hills gas station at the intersection of West Slauson and South La Brea avenues on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, in Los Angeles.  (Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
California Highway Patrol and other officials investigate a fiery crash in which multiple people were killed near a Windsor Hills gas station at the intersection of West Slauson and South La Brea avenues on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, in Los Angeles. (Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
By Richard Winton, Nathan Solis and Noah Goldberg Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES – The nurse accused of killing five people last week when her Mercedes plowed into traffic at a busy Windsor Hills intersection had been involved in 13 previous crashes, Los Angeles County prosecutors alleged Monday in charging her with murder.

Authorities revealed new details about Thursday’s crash and about the driver, Nicole Lorraine Linton, 37, whose permanent address is in Texas and who is renting a room in Los Angeles while working as a traveling registered nurse.

Prosecutors said they are reviewing multiple previous crashes linked to Linton – in and out of California – including one in 2020 that involved bodily injury in which two cars were totaled. They provided few additional details.

Linton’s attorney, Halim Dhanidina, asked the court Monday to continue her arraignment to October because he is reviewing her out-of-state history of “documented profound mental health issues.” Dhanidina did not elaborate on those issues but said the Windsor Hills crash could be linked to them.

Here’s what we know:

The crash

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 Avenue in Windsor Hills. Prosecutors say Linton was behind the wheel.

The Mercedes does not appear to slow before running a red light shortly after 1:30 p.m. 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.

Prosecutors say Linton was speeding as fast as 90 mph.

At least six vehicles were involved in the crash, according to California Highway Patrol investigators. In addition to the fatalities, eight people were injured.

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón said there is no evidence of any alcohol use by Linton .

In announcing charges against her Monday, he declined to discuss what led to the crash, saying it was still under investigation and he was “not going to get into the details.”

The aftermath

The impact of the crash and fire it caused killed 23-year-old Asherey Ryan; her 11-month-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 had been named Armani Lester, according to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

Two other women killed in the crash have yet to be identified.

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 said 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 protected 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.

The charges

Linton was charged Monday with six counts of murder and five counts of gross vehicular manslaughter.

The vehicular manslaughter charges are for the deaths of the four adults and the baby, who was about two weeks shy of his first birthday. Ryan’s unborn child cannot be included in those charges.

Linton faces up to life in prison if convicted of all charges.

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 was set to leave L.A. and travel to Hawaii for work, prosecutors said.

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