DA to file murder charges against Las Vegas stabbing suspect
A man with a large kitchen knife who terrorized tourists and locals, including showgirls, on the Las Vegas Strip in a stabbing rampage that left two people dead and six others wounded will be charged with murder, the region’s top prosecutor said Friday.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said he intends to file two counts of murder with the use of a deadly weapon and six counts of attempted murder with the use of a deadly weapon against Yoni Barrios, 32. He did not rule out pursuing a death penalty.
“We are going to give it serious consideration. But it’s so early on,” Wolfson told media outlets after Barrios’ afternoon initial court appearance ended.
Barrios had traveled from California and only been in town “a short time,” Wolfson added.
Barrios, who wore a dark blue jumpsuit and orange hand restraints, was ordered held without bail. An initial arraignment was scheduled for Tuesday.
It wasn’t immediately known whether Barrios had a lawyer who could comment on his behalf. The Clark County Public Defender’s office was closed Friday.
He is being held in the Clark County Detention Center.
Two of the victims went to Sunrise Hospital Trauma Center. One was in good condition and another in fair condition Friday, said Marissa Mussi, a hospital spokeswoman.
The remaining four went to University Medical Center. Officials did not immediately return a message seeking their current status.
The Clark County coroner’s office identified the victims who were killed as Brent Allan Hallett, 47, and Maris Mareen Digiovanni, 30, both Las Vegas residents.
Digiovanni was part of the Best Showgirls In Vegas modeling and talent agency, according to Cheryl Lowthorp, who runs the business. Two others with the agency were among the wounded and a third escaped without injury. Digiovanni was fatally stabbed as one of the showgirls held her and was then stabbed in the back.
They told police that their attacker “thought they were making fun of the way he was dressed,” Lowthorp said.
In her 12 years operating the agency, she said the models have pretty much gone day to day “without incident.” Best Showgirls In Vegas provides models and showgirls for various promotional events from restaurant openings to airport greetings. All the women typically go to the Strip to offer photo opportunities in exchange for tips. They don’t need to get any permit since any money is considered a donation, Lowthorp said. Digiovanni took to being a showgirl when she started with them two years ago.
“She loved it. She left teaching for it,” Lowthorp said. “This is a great job. They set all their own schedules. The girls get to be their own boss…This man may have very well taken all that away from them.”
Of the two showgirls who were wounded, she said only one remains hospitalized. Lowthorp has started a GoFundMe for them since there is now “a lot of unknown in their future.”
Police say they began receiving 911 calls about the stabbings around 11:40 a.m. Thursday across the street from the Wynn casino and hotel. Some of the callers even followed him.
Barrios was detained by Sands security guards and Metropolitan Police officers while running on a Strip sidewalk, police said. There were no other suspects involved.
Police said they were continuing to investigate the motive but do believe the attacks were unprovoked.
They recovered the “large knife with a long blade” believed to have been used, Metropolitan Police Deputy Chief James LaRochelle said, calling the case a “hard-to-comprehend murder investigation.”
Dewaun Turner, 47, a porter at The District at Resorts World, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he was walking home when he saw two people dressed as showgirls in red dresses and heels fleeing from a man with a knife. He saw the man stab both of them, a man walking by and then two more women.
“Ten or 15 steps ahead, and I would’ve been one of the people stabbed,” Turner said.
A witness told Las Vegas TV station KTNV the suspect told a woman that he was a chef who wanted to take a picture with some of the showgirls with his knife. But he started stabbing people when the group declined the man’s offer.
Authorities are calling this an isolated incident and have been issuing assurances that Las Vegas is a safe place for the thousands of tourists who flock to the Strip every day.