A traveling nurse from Texas accused of causing a high-speed fiery wreck that killed six people, including an 8-month pregnant woman and her unborn child, had suffered from major psychotic episodes years before the crash, including diving through a window and jumping on top of a patrol car after running across several lanes of traffic, a neurologist wrote in documents provided by her defense lawyers to Law&Crime.
The first major psychotic episode for Nicole Linton occurred on May 6, 2018, court documents said.
It involved “a strange dream-like state” while she was jogging, followed by the onset of perceptual disturbance, disordered thinking and bizarre behavior while stopped at a restaurant.
Details about her psychotic episodes came out in a report by Dr. David Millett, a neurologist specializing in epilepsy and seizures and hired by her defense attorney.
“She then ran out of the restaurant across several lanes of traffic, stopped in front of a moving police car, made facial gestures at the officer behind the wheel before jumping on the hood and then up and down on the roof of the patrol car,” the report said.
The second major event occurred on May 20, 2019, court records show. Linton’s then-boyfriend recounted they were alone in Linton’s apartment when she began “talking to herself and to other people who were not there… acting paranoid and seeing things and people that were not there… when suddenly she ‘jumped up, sprinted to the window and dove right thru [sic] the glass.'”
The document said she removed her clothes after landing in the bushes below. She walked around the apartment complex naked and bleeding from multiple lacerations, “confused, unresponsive, and unaware of what was going on.”
Although there were no eyewitnesses to her behavior while driving just before the crash of Aug. 4, 2022, her “active acceleration of the vehicle as it approached the intersection, without recognizing the imminent danger to herself, is strongly suggestive of an escape response similar the other major episodes and may represent a form of frontal lobe seizure as described above,” the report said.
There were no documented incidents of psychotic episodes between the May 20, 2019, incident and the August 2022 deadly crash.
Linton, 37, of Houston, has pleaded not guilty to six counts of murder and five counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence in the crash about nine miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles, prosecutors said. Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said the incident “will always be remembered for the senseless loss of so many innocent lives as they simply went about their daily routines.”
She’s accused of driving at 140 mph on La Brea Boulevard and crashing into several vehicles, causing a fire and killing Asherey Ryan, 23, who was pregnant, her 11-month-old son Allonzo, and her boyfriend, Reynold Lester. Two other women in another vehicle also were killed. Six other vehicles were involved in the collision, including five people with minor injuries in an SUV and another driver in another vehicle, prosecutors said.
While arguing for Linton to be moved from jail to a psychiatric hospital last year, her attorney suggested that Linton, who has also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, may have had a seizure behind the wheel in the crash.
“The suggestion that she’s suffering a lack of consciousness, such as a seizure, while also maintaining control of a car moving 130 mph … defies logic,” Deputy District Attorney Antonella Nitorescu said during a hearing on the issue, the Los Angeles Times reported. The judge at the time denied the request to have Linton moved from the jail to the hospital.
At a court hearing on Thursday, Linton’s lawyer Jacqueline Sparagna presented a motion to vacate a court order that allowed a prosecution expert to examine Linton in jail on April 21 without notifying Sparagna of the court order and that he was interviewing her. Sparagna said the prosecution violated Linton’s due process rights by having a prosecution expert interview her client without her knowledge.
She said she was unaware that the interview would occur and that the prosecution provided her with no information that it would happen. Sparagna said she doesn’t know what the psychologist discussed with her client and is subpoenaing notes made by the psychologist and what Linton told him in those interviews.
A judge is expected in two weeks to determine whether the prosecution improperly obtained the expert appointment order, Sparagna said.
Linton has requested that the court order be vacated because it was obtained without her counsel’s knowledge in violation of the California Penal Code.
“This is trial by ambush,” Sparagna said in a statement to Law&Crime. “The district attorneys’ behavior is an underhanded and unconstitutional dirty trick to gain advantage over Nicole, which the Court should immediately sanction.
“This was an egregious constitutional violation. Nicole is being charged with multiple counts of murder and facing the rest of her life in prison. Her rights must be protected at all costs. It’s unconscionable that the District Attorney’s office so callously tramped all over them. This is Criminal Law 101. The prosecution team cannot speak to represented defendants without first informing defense counsel. Period.”
The court order said good cause was shown to have Robert Schug, a criminology professor at California State University, Long Beach, evaluate Linton’s “psychiatric/psychological, cognitive and emotional functioning,” the document said.
In a statement, a LA County District Attorney spokesman said, “Any defense objections as to this appointment, and any potential response, will be heard and addressed in court.”
Schug saw Linton in custody on Friday, April 21, the motion said.
“At the time, the defense had not been provided or served with any court order authorizing a medical examination of the defendant,” the motion said. “At the time, the prosecution never informed the defense that it had submitted a proposed order for the Court to sign. At the time, the defense was not aware of any ex parte communications between this Court and the prosecution. Thus, Ms. Linton was evaluated by Dr. Schug without defense counsel’s knowledge and without defense counsel’s consent.”
The motion said that the prosecutor later apologized for not sending the order to the defense sooner and explained that the prosecution did not realize their expert was going to interview Linton before he had received all of the discovery, the document said.
“Curiously, she then changed course and explained that she did actually try to send the defense the order, but her cell phone’s mail application was not working,” the document said.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]