Woman pleads not guilty in Las Vegas manicurist murder case

LAS VEGAS — A woman who authorities say ran down a salon worker trying to stop her from skipping out on a $35 manicure pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder and other charges and lost a bid to be freed from jail pending trial.

A judge in Las Vegas told Krystal Whipple, standing in shackles, that “proof is evident and the presumption is great” that she was involved in a homicide.

Clark County District Court Judge Douglas Herndon said he believed Whipple fled “to avoid any apprehension or prosecution in this case.”

Police said Whipple tried to pay for her Dec. 29, 2018, manicure with a fraudulent credit card before telling Ngoc Quynh Nhu Nguyen that she was going to her car to get cash.

Nguyen, 51, followed her to the parking lot and was run over and killed by the car, which police later said had been stolen from a rental agency. The vehicle was later found abandoned.

Prosecutor Michael Schwartzer said that after video of the incident was widely shown, Whipple fled first to neighbouring Boulder City, Nevada, then to Los Angeles, and was headed to North Carolina when she surrendered to authorities in Arizona almost two weeks after Nguyen’s death.

Whipple’s attorney, Timothy Treffinger, had asked that she be released on $100,000 bail and house arrest until trial next April.

“This is a matter of a young person who panicked,” Treffinger said, adding that Whipple surrendered to police in Glendale, Arizona.

Whipple, 21, could face life in prison if she’s convicted, but won’t face the death penalty, Schwartzer said. She faces murder, robbery, burglary and stolen vehicle charges.

Whipple has a criminal record in Las Vegas including a conviction in 2017 for attempted possession of a stolen vehicle. Court records show she was sentenced to four months in jail for violating probation in that case.

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