Attorneys for Nicole Linton, a traveling nurse accused of killing multiple people in a fiery car crash, say she may have blacked out just moments before the tragic incident.
According to legal documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times, Linton’s lawyers argue their client experienced a “frightening” mental breakdown in “the days, hours, and minutes” leading up to the collision. The 37-year-old was arrested this month after allegedly running a red light at 90 mph in L.A., smashing her Mercedes into several other vehicles. Authorities later confirmed the incident claimed the lives of five people: 38-year-old Lynette Noble; Nathesia Lewis, 43; Reynold Lester, 24; and 23-year-old pregnant mother Asherey Ryan and her 11-month-old son Alonzo. Ryan’s unborn child didn’t survive the crash. About a half-dozen others were injured.
Linton, who suffered moderate injuries in the wreck, was ultimately charged with five counts of manslaughter and six counts of murder, which include the fetus.
The nurse’s attorneys filed documents Wednesday, highlighting her history of mental health issues. They say Linton had been struggling with bipolar disorder for four years and experienced an “apparent lapse of consciousness” at the time of the crash. The filing included a report by Dr. William Winter, who treated Linton at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after the wreck.
“She has no recollection of the events that led to her collision,” Winter wrote on Aug. 6, two days after the incident. “The next thing she recalled was lying on the pavement and seeing that her car was on fire.”
The defense said Linton’s family became aware of her bipolar diagnosis in 2018, and detailed some of the mental health crises she experienced in the following years. Her sister Camille Linton told the court that Linton’s struggles became apparent when she was studying to be a nurse anesthetist.
“The stress was too much for her and it ‘broke’ her,” Camille Linton wrote in a letter. “Thus beginning the journey of Nicole’s 4-year struggle with mental illness.”
Linton’s lawyers also said she had a panic attack in 2018 and ran out of her apartment. When authorities arrived at the scene, she allegedly jumped on a police car and was arrested for disorderly conduct. Days later, Linton reportedly told her family she believed she was possessed by her late grandmother. According to court documents, Linton went to Ben Taub psychiatric hospital the following day, where she had to get stitches after banging her head into a glass partition. About a year later, Linton was spotted running around her apartment complex naked. A neighbor notified her family, and she was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward.
Linton’s attorneys say her mental health worsened after she stopped taking her bipolar medication during the pandemic. She allegedly met with an online therapist who told her she was suffering from anxiety.
“In the days and hours leading up to the events of August 4, Nicole’s behavior became increasingly frightening,” her attorneys wrote. “She told her sister that she was flying out to meet her in Houston the next day so she could do her niece’s hair. She also said that she would be getting married and that her sister should meet her at the altar.”
Nicole Linton’s lawyers have asked the court to release her for testing at a mental health facility “where she can be monitored and treated for her illness.”