Las Vegas police are asking for the public’s help in finding a Miami woman with a history of prostitution arrests they say was involved in Thursday’s shooting and fiery chain-reaction car crash on the Strip that left three people dead.
Detectives Tuesday released photographs of Tineesha Howard, 22, who also is known as Yenesis Alfonzo, a Cuban-American from Miami.
In the photographs, she can be seen posing several times with the shooting suspect, Ammar Harris, 26, both of them with big smiles across their faces.
Howard, whose nicknames include “Yeni” and “Yeeni,” has a lengthy arrest record on charges of solicitation for prostitution, grand larceny trick rolling, possession of a stolen vehicle and trespassing, said Bill Cassell, a spokesman with the Metropolitan Police Department.
She is 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighs 120 pounds, has green eyes and dark hair.
She was last seen with Harris and could still be with him, he said.
“Are we going to catch him? Absolutely,” Cassell said of Harris, who’s considered armed and dangerous and has a big owl tattooed at the bottom of his throat. “We have numerous law enforcement agencies working on this across the country.”
Anyone who helps catch Harris could get a $35,000 reward if he is arrested and convicted.
The Las Vegas Taxicab Authority, which lost one of its own in the tragedy, announced the reward at a news conference.
Michael Boldon, 62, a Detroit native, was burned beyond recognition after his taxicab exploded upon impact, killing Sandra Sutton-Wasmund, 48, his passenger from Maple Valley, Wash., at
4:20 a.m. Thursday .
The explosion shut down the Strip for 15 hours and focused national attention on the safety of Las Vegas.
The crash happened at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Boulevard, within sight of some of the city’s largest casinos.
Police believe the incident began when aspiring rapper Kenneth Cherry Jr., 27, and Harris fought in the valet waiting area at the nearby Aria.
That led to the car chase and the subsequent shooting of Cherry Jr., an Oakland native, who was shot in the chest while behind the wheel of his Maserati.
But Asmayit “May” Hagos, 22, the girlfriend who had a baby with the rapper two months ago, said Cherry Jr. “never exchanged a word” with Harris.
At least according to his close friends, he didn’t, she said. Those who have called her since his death tell her so.
She also called a press conference Tuesday and denied rumors that Cherry Jr. was a pimp and that she was his prostitute.
“He never controlled me,” she said.
She met Cherry Jr. three years ago at a Las Vegas club where he was performing. The two had been seeing each other ever since — in both Las Vegas and in Alameda, Calif., where she now lives.
She asked the media to stop calling him “a pimp,” saying her baby girl is going to someday grow up, Google her father’s name and see all the bad things that have been written about him.
“I know this man inside and out. He was never a pimp. He was never pimping out girls,” said Hagos, her 2-month-old daughter just a few feet away in the arms of her older sister. “He was a rapper who just wanted to fit in. He just wanted to be like the other rappers.”
Child custody documents in Clark County family court paint a different picture of Cherry Jr. They depict a violent man who chased down the mother of one of his other children and beat her so hard that she started to see “stars.”
The allegations were made in September 2011 in an affidavit that stems from a child custody dispute.
Hagos said the past girlfriend’s allegations aren’t true and that the woman was exaggerating to obtain custody of her child.
“Anybody will say anything in a child custody battle,” she said.
Hagos has an arrest record that includes solicitation for prostitution, grand larceny trick rolling, and trespassing. It’s the same sort of rap sheet that Howard has — the woman who has been identified by police as a “person of interest.”
Hagos’ most recent arrest on prostitution charges came a year ago in Houston.
But Hagos said she has since cleaned up her act, and that part of that recovery is because of Cherry Jr. He introduced her to his longtime lawyer, Vicki Greco, who helped reduce the charges and made sure that she served minimum jail time.
She said since the birth of their baby, Cherry Jr. had been supporting her from Las Vegas.
She wouldn’t say how much money he sent her, but she claims he made money in the music industry.
It’s a question that many people are asking: Where did Cherry Jr., if he wasn’t a pimp, get his money?
Where did he get the money to afford the Maserati and the expensive pair of apartments he lived in at the Meridian just off the Strip and in Newport Lofts in downtown Las Vegas?
His father, Kenneth Cherry Sr., in town over the weekend to claim the body of his dead son, said the family is “very wealthy” on his wife’s side from real estate investments.
He said his son’s great-grandmother lives on Telegraph Hill, a posh area of San Francisco. Reporters have been hounding her for answers, but she doesn’t know what’s going on, he said.
“She’s saying, ‘Where’s my little Kenny?’ ” he said.
Cassell said the aspiring rapper had no criminal convictions or arrests in Nevada.
Lou Pascoe, director of the Southern Nevada Task Force on Human Trafficking, said a pimp doesn’t necessarily have to get arrested to be a pimp.
“Can you commit a crime and never be arrested?” she asked. “Yes.”
Annie Loebert, a former prostitute who started the ministry Hookers for Jesus, said it’s appalling how pimps have changed , although she wasn’t talking about anybody specifically.
In the 1980s and ’90s, the pimps dressed nicely, they drove nice cars, they wore fine jewelry, and they lived in fine houses, she said.
“Now, they’re just gangsters. Now they beat their women. I’m not saying every pimp beats up his girl, but a lot of them do.”