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‘God gave us an angel’

A family lost its daughter in a brief moment Friday, and the woman who allegedly ran a sport utility vehicle into the young woman’s car will most likely face vehicular man-slaughter charges.

Cassandra Elizabeth Schley-May, 22, of Nevada City, was killed when a Jeep Cherokee, driven by Kelli Lynette Townsend, ran into her head-on Friday afternoon.

“God gave us an angel for 22 years,” said Schley-May’s grandfather, Ken Schley, in a written statement by the young woman’s family Sunday.



Townsend, 36, of Nevada City, was arrested after the crash and faces charges of DUI vehicular manslaughter, DUI causing bodily injury and willful harm to a child – her 5-year-old daughter was in the Jeep at the time. California Highway Patrol Sgt. Jerry Morgan said the investigation into Townsend’s use of alcohol is ongoing.

According to county jail officers, Townsend was no longer in custody Sunday. A call to her residence was answered by a man who declined to comment.




The crash happened at about 2 p.m. Friday. Townsend was driving a Jeep Cherokee north on Highway 49, near Old Downieville Highway, and Schley-May was heading in the opposite direction in a much smaller red Ford Festiva.

Glen Edmiston, 76, of Camptonville, was trailing Schley-May in a Chevrolet Malibu; North San Juan resident Joseph Oper was trailing Townsend in a Toyota pickup.

Townsend’s Jeep crossed the double yellow lines and struck Schley-May “headlight to headlight causing catastrophic damage” to the Festiva, according to a news release by the California Highway Patrol.

The Jeep began to spin out and struck the Malibu, which overturned in a ditch on the west shoulder. The Festiva ended up on the east shoulder of the road with the front end smashed into the front seat. The Toyota pickup struck Townsend’s Jeep and bent the Jeep’s front left front wheel under its engine.

The accident closed the highway for two hours.

Schley-May was the only one to suffer critical injuries, according to the highway patrol. Townsend had cuts and bruises to her legs and arms, but nothing else. Her 5-year-old daughter, who was most likely sitting in the back of the Jeep, had no major injuries, Sgt. Morgan said. Oper, who was driving the Toyota pickup, also had no major injuries.

Lillian Edmiston, Glen Edmiston’s wife, said her husband was still at Sutter Roseville Medical Center Sunday in the intensive care unit. According to the highway patrol, he suffered fractured ribs.

“I’m heartsick for the family of (Schley-May), but I am glad my husband is alive,” Lillian Edmiston said.

The Nevada County Consolidated Fire Department and ambulances from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital responded to the call.

Sunday, Schley-May’s family gathered and mourned.

“Her pure spirit touched everyone she met,” said her father, Jim Schley-May. “She was always sending her unconditional love to others,” her mother, Renee, said.


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