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‘She stopped breathing’: Victim recounts Strip stabbing attack

Updated October 9, 2022 - 7:21 pm

Anna Westby was stabbed in the back. Her friend Maris DiGiovanni was stabbed in the chest and bleeding profusely.

It was about 11:40 a.m. Thursday and the friends, who work as showgirls on the Strip, had just been attacked by a knife-wielding man near the pedestrian bridge in front of Wynn Las Vegas.

“And I start losing consciousness because I was losing so much blood and so I laid my head on Maris’ chest and I noticed that she stopped breathing,” Westby said in a video phone call from her hospital bed on Saturday.

This is what Westby remembers from she and her friends’ brief but fateful encounter with a man police would later identify as Yoni Barrios, 32.

“I’m doing OK, I guess,” Westby said in the video call provided by her employer, Cheryl Lowthorp, owner of Best Showgirls in Vegas. “Still in a lot of pain. I remember everything from (Thursday).”

2 counts of murder, 6 counts of attempted murder

Barrios is accused of stabbing eight people, killing two of them, in a sudden, broad daylight stabbing spree on a busy Las Vegas Boulevard.

He faces six counts of attempted murder and two counts of murder and was ordered held without bail in a court appearance Friday.

Barrios appeared before a TV camera in Los Angeles two days before the stabbing, according to story and video clip posted on the website of Telemundo 52. Speaking to the camera, Barrios said he had lost everything and needed help, according to Telemundo.

DiGiovanni, 30, of Las Vegas, died of a stab wound to the chest, the Clark County Coroner’s Office said.

Brent Hallett, 47, also of Las Vegas died of a stab wound to the back, the coroner said.

Westby, who said she suffered a punctured lung, fought through tears and lingering pain and nausea from the stabbing while recounting the encounter with Barrios.

“From the moment that we saw the knife to the moment that he stabbed Maris was two seconds,” she said.

Westby said she and DiGiovanni and their fellow showgirl and friend Victoria Cayetano were on the Strip working when Barrios asked them to take a picture that would include him holding his company’s logo.

Westby said it’s common for people to request photos that might include them holding some sort of logo or promotional item.

But before they could even agree to take the photo, Barrios reached into a bag and pulled out a piece of cloth, which he unfolded, revealing a knife. The three friends looked at each other, not knowing what to make of the knife, when suddenly Barrios plunged the knife into Maris’ chest, Westby recalled.

“And he stabbed Maris in the heart, and then Victoria, and he chased Victoria and he stabbed her in the back,” Westby said. “And Maris, when she got stabbed, she ran and I ran in the same direction as her, and she collapsed like 15 feet away from where she was stabbed.”

No ridicule of suspect

Asked if there was any truth to the claim by Barrios, according to his Metropolitan Police Department arrest report, that he had been made fun of or ridiculed by the women, and Westby angrily denounced Barrios as “a dangerous man that took multiple lives for no reason at all” and who should be “buried under the jail.”

“There was not a single moment where he was provoked,” Westby said. “No, there was no making fun of anyone.”

Even though Westby had also been stabbed, she was more focused on trying to help her gravely wounded friend DiGiovanni.

“I guess when she fell, she landed on her face. And I saw a lot of blood everywhere, and so I flipped her over and I told this man to give me his shirt, so I took his shirt and I held it against her wound and just pressed down on it and tried to stop the bleeding.

“And I’m screaming, asking everyone ‘help!’ There was like 10 people just standing around. ‘Can someone call 911? Can someone help me?’”

Westby said a man told her that she had a stab wound to her back, and asked if she was OK. Westby said no, and asked the man to press his shirt against her back while she used another shirt to try to stop DiGiovanni’s bleeding. At the same time, Westby said, she was on the phone with 911.

“There was no reason that Maris had to die,” Westby said. “He had every intention on killing her and killing us.”

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

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