Driver's mental health was deteriorating before L.A. crash that killed 5, prosecutors say

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Nicole Linton appears in Los Angeles Superior Court for arraignment on murder charges stemming from a traffic accident, Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Los Angeles. Linton, suspected of causing a fiery crash that killed five people and an 8 1/2-month-old fetus near Los Angeles, has been charged with murder, as well as vehicular manslaughter, and is being held on $9 million bail. (Frederick M. Brown/Daily via AP, Pool)
Nicole Lorraine Linton appears in Los Angeles County Superior Court. (Frederick M. Brown / Pool Photo)

The traveling nurse accused of causing a fiery Windsor Hills crash that killed five people was suffering from worsening mental health issues, had hurt herself before and had been involuntarily committed for psychiatric treatment multiple times, prosecutors said Monday.

In a filing opposing the pretrial release of Nicole Lorraine Linton, who faces murder and manslaughter charges in connection with the Aug. 4 crash, L.A. County Deputy Dist. Atty. Brittany Vannoy said many of the issues were shared with prosecutors by the defense team.

"The defense has disclosed a number of prior incidents which appear to be increasing in severity, ranging from the defendant jumping on police cars to jumping out of apartment windows," Vannoy wrote. "The defense indicates [Linton] has been subject to involuntary commitments on several occasions and has hurt herself more than once."

Vannoy argued that Linton's mental health issues, her reckless driving in the case, and her ties to people out of state and out of the country mean she should be held without bail pretrial. Linton's mother lives in Jamaica, the prosecutor said.

"The defendant’s extremely reckless conduct combined with her mental health struggles that have escalated to the point of taking the lives of six individuals and harming seven more clearly comport with the exceptions for detention without bail under the California Constitution," Vannoy wrote.

The filing did not mention previous car crashes linked to Linton, which prosecutors were said to be reviewing when they filed charges in the Windsor Hills incident.

Attorneys for the nurse, who had been working at Kaiser Permanente's West Los Angeles Medical Center, could not immediately be reached for comment on Linton's mental health history but earlier Monday denied that she has an extensive history of car accidents.

"It's been reported extensively and it's not true," said Halim Dhanidina, who represents Linton.

"Our initial investigation has demonstrated that that allegation that's been bandied about in the media is patently false," Dhanidina said about the claim that Linton was involved in 13 other crashes before the Windsor Hills one.

Linton was set to have a hearing over her bail Monday, but her attorneys asked a judge to postpone it for two weeks so that they could continue investigating and preparing.

Linton is being held without bail at the Century Regional Detention Center and did not come to court for the brief hearing Monday.

"All things considered, she's trying to keep her chin up and is anxiously awaiting further resolution in court," Dhanidina told The Times outside the courtroom.

Linton is charged with six counts of murder and five counts of manslaughter in the crash. She is accused of driving her Mercedes-Benz around 90 mph down La Brea Avenue toward Slauson Avenue, and then barreling into numerous cars, setting them on fire.

Five people died, including a pregnant woman. Prosecutors levied a murder charge against Linton for the death of the unborn child.

The crash was caught on surveillance video.

Asherey Ryan, 23, was killed along with her boyfriend, Reynold Lester, her 11-month-old child, Alonzo Quintero, and her unborn child. Two women in another car, Nathesia Lewis, 42, and Lynette Noble, 38, were also killed.

The Times was able to find records of at least two crashes that Linton was previously involved in. In 2013, she did not accelerate at a green light in Laredo, Texas, and was rear-ended, according to Texas Department of Transportation data. In 2016, the same thing happened in Houston. She was not at fault in either of those crashes.

She is due back in court Aug. 31.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.