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‘No, there was no making fun of anyone’: Stabbed showgirl tells of ordeal

Updated October 11, 2022 - 8:25 pm

As Victoria Cayetano and Maris DiGiovanni worked together that Thursday morning on the Strip, the final morning of DiGiovanni’s life, they posed for a selfie taken by Cayetano.

Both women were smiling and wearing showgirl costumes. DiGiovanni held a $100 bill.

Not long after, both would be stabbed by a knife-wielding man who went on a sudden rampage on the busy Strip, with eight victims in total, the Metropolitan Police Department said. Police would arrest the man and identify him as Yoni Barrios, 32.

Cayetano, stabbed in the shoulder, survived. DiGiovanni, stabbed in the chest, did not. Brent Hallett, 47, of Alberta, Canada, was also killed.

In a Facetime interview on Monday, Cayetano, 19, recounted her harrowing experiences that morning just before noon on the Strip by the pedestrian bridge in front of the Wynn Las Vegas resort.

“I was just shocked that this was happening, that we were getting chased by someone with a knife,” Cayetano said.

Cheryl Lowthorp owns Best Showgirls in Vegas, the company that employed DiGiovanni, 30, and continues to employ the surviving women who posed as showgirls. Lowthorp is now trying to raise money through a GoFundMe to cover the survivors’ medical bills and other expenses.

None of the 50 or so women who work for the company was working as of Monday, Lowthorp said.

“We’re closed because the girls are terrified,” Lowthorp said.

Lowthorp’s fundraising goal for the GoFundMe page she created, called the “Las Vegas showgirl recovery fund,” is to raise $250,000. The effort had raised more than $21,000 by Monday afternoon.

A separate GoFundMe set up to help DiGiovanni’s family cover funeral expenses, travel arrangements, and other costs had raised more than $58,000 by Monday afternoon.

“She was very bright all the times that I worked with her,” Cayetano said of DiGiovanni. “She never had a frown on her face.”

Resort disputes account

A spokesperson for Wynn Resorts disputed what Barrios told police about his interaction with a security guard at the Wynn just before the stabbing spree, when Barrios allegedly told the guard he was trying to sell knives to get enough money to go back home, according to his Metro arrest report.

“The security guard told Barrios to jump in front of a train,” the arrest report said.

Wynn, through its spokesperson, disputed that account.

“The comment attributed to our security officer by the assailant in Thursday’s incident is false,” wrote Michael Weaver, chief communications and brand officer of Wynn Resorts, in an email.

“After being interviewed by both Las Vegas Metro and our own internal investigators, we believe our officer responded responsibly to the assailant, given the limited information available to him and an interaction lasting less than 30 seconds,” Weaver said.

Before his exchange with the security guard, Barrios also spoke with a janitor about possible job openings and asked the janitor to contact U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement so that he could be returned home to Guatemala.

Lowthorp, Westby and Cayetano also disputed what Barrios allegedly told police, claims that Barrios thought the women were “laughing at him and making fun of his clothing.” All three said those claims were ridiculous and untrue.

“There was not a single moment where he was provoked,” Anna Westby, another woman dressed as a showgirl who was stabbed but survived, said to reporters in a video phone call from her hospital bed on Saturday night. “No, there was no making fun of anyone.”

Sudden stabbing

Cayetano remembered the interaction in much the same way as Westby, in an interview she gave to reporters Saturday night: that a man approached four women posing as showgirls and asked to have his picture taken with them, but then pulled out a large black knife that was wrapped in a piece of cloth.

Perplexed and alarmed, the girls eyed each other warily. Suddenly the man plunged the knife into DiGiovanni’s chest.

They all started to run. DiGiovanni collapsed. The man chased them. He stabbed Westby in the back and Cayetano in the shoulder. Another woman named Selina, who Lowthorp said wants to maintain her privacy and didn’t want to give her name or do any media interviews, managed to escape without being stabbed.

DiGiovanni was taken to University Medical Center but died.

“She was an amazing human being,” Lowthorp said. “This was an amazing soul.”

Barrios, according to police, kept on running and stabbing, knifing five other people.

Citing state law, police redacted the surviving victims’ names from the arrest report. But another GoFundMe identifies Gabrielle “Gabby” Hewes and sister Cassandra “Cassy” Hewes as two of the other victims stabbed in the attacks.

“The family is now facing missed work, hotel expenses as well as travel expenses to be with the girls in Las Vegas,” the GoFundMe page says. As of Monday evening it had raised almost $13,000.

Barrios faces six counts of attempted murder and two counts of murder and was ordered held without bail in a court appearance Friday. He appeared briefly in court on Tuesday, and a public defender was appointed to represent him.

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com or 561-324-6421. Follow @BrettClarkson_ on Twitter.

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