Drunken driver sentencing debate
Although they share a common and tragic bond, they have different views on how the driver that took their loved ones’ lives should be treated.
Renee Schley-May lost her daughter, Cassandra, in June when a vehicle driven by an intoxicated Kelli Lynette Townsend crashed into the 22-year-old’s car. Schley-May was pronounced dead at the scene.
Lillian Edmiston’s 76-year-old husband, Glen, rolled his vehicle as he drove upon that scene. He died 10 days later.
Townsend is scheduled to be sentenced Friday for two charges of vehicular manslaughter.
She has pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular manslaughter and likely will serve no more than five years and four months in prison. Driving under the influence of alcohol and child endangerment charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement. Deputy District Attorney Dave Walters said the judge will consider those charges when he sentences Townsend.
Schley-May would like to see a sentence that gives Townsend an opportunity to rebuild her life.
“She won’t receive treatment in prison,” Schley-May said. “Punishment has not been proven to work.”
The Nevada City woman said she spoke recently with Townsend and was moved by her remorse.
“I wanted to see … if she could truly own her part of what happened – to take full responsibility,” Schley-May said. “We connected as human beings and as mothers. She said she is very sorry. She was very genuine about it.
“She said she would never drink again.”
Lillian Edmiston, however, feels that punishment is important.
“I can’t stop crying, nine months later,” she said. “It’s so terrible, he was my buddy. I want justice – I don’t want revenge.”
The crash occurred June 11 on Highway 49 just north of Nevada City. Townsend was driving a Jeep Cherokee with a blood-alcohol level of .20, which is more than twice the legal limit.
According to the California Highway Patrol, she crossed the center line and crashed into Cassandra Schley-May’s Ford compact.
Glen Edmiston, of Camptonville, was following Schley-May in a Chevrolet Malibu when he lost control of his vehicle.
Lillian Edmiston said she still cannot forgive Townsend.
“I have very mixed feelings,” Edmiston said. “I can’t put it into words.”
She agrees that Townsend needs counseling and treatment but feels a prison sentence is appropriate, as well.
“My husband always said, ‘Be responsible, take the punishment and get on with your life,'” she said. “It would be easy for me to say ‘it’s over – what’s done is done.’ But that is the easy way out. We need to get her off the road.”
Rather than focusing on Townsend’s behavior, Schley-May wants to work on preventing DUI crashes. She now plans to work with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.
“We need to take a closer look at drinking and getting into a car,” she said. “This is happening every day.’
Schley-May said that she would like to see Townsend sentenced to one year in jail, 10 years probation, alcoholism treatment, and the permanent suspension of her drivers license.
She also said that she will keep track of Townsend.
“She will be accountable to me and she will be accountable to Cassie,” she said. “You can’t bring Cassie back, and if you knew Cassie, you know this is what she would have wanted. We forgive her, and we know that her intention was not to kill Cassie.
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