‘May we all heal’ – Townsend gets two years for vehicular manslaughter
Clutching roses and tissues, the friends and families of Kelli Townsend’s two victims wept as she tried to apologize Friday for the lives claimed by her drunken driving.
“I’ve wanted all along to say how sorry I am and express my remorse. I can’t find the words to describe how I feel for causing the death of another human being … I don’t know if I can forgive myself,” she said.
But her lawyer’s plea for simple probation went unheeded by Nevada County Superior Court Judge Robert Tamietti, who sentenced Townsend to two years in the Nevada County jail, one year in a lockdown alcohol treatment unit, and more than seven years’ probation for killing two drivers on Highway 49.
In a plea bargain last month, Townsend, 36, agreed she was guilty of two counts of vehicular manslaughter for the June 11, 2004, deaths of Cassandra Schley-May, 22, and Glen Edmiston, 76. Townsend was about a mile north of Nevada City, with one of her children in her Jeep Cherokee, when she crossed the center line and struck Schley-May head-on, crushing the 22-year-old’s compact car.
Townsend’s SUV then spun and collided with Edmiston’s vehicle, which rolled into a ditch. Schley-May died instantly, and Edmiston died 10 days later in the hospital.
Tamietti also warned Townsend that violating her probation would land her in prison for five years and four months. He also forbade her to drink or drive during the sentence term.
The judge said he received letters before the sentencing asking him to be lenient with Townsend because she has two young children. But Tamietti said Townsend drank one pint and a half of vodka that day – almost a fifth of liquor – and the judge felt it was not an isolated incident of innocent consumption.
“You and all of us have been lucky, and all of that luck ran out in one day,” Tamietti told Townsend in a courtroom so full that some spectators had to sit in the jury box.
Tamietti said he had no confidence in the state penal system’s ability to help Townsend stop drinking and said local jail time and rehabilitation would address her situation much better.
Renee Schley-May, Cassandra’s mother, told Townsend she would forever be accountable to Cassandra’s memory and family. After the hearing, Renee Schley-May said the sentence was “close enough” to her wishes, adding, “may we all heal.”
Edmiston’s wife, Lillian, declined to comment after the hearing. Earlier this week, she told The Union she wanted justice in the case, but not revenge.
During Friday’s hearing, her daughter, Linda Edmiston, said Townsend’s crime, “has to go punished. If justice isn’t served, the law isn’t served.”
Prosecuting Attorney David Walters said Townsend’s .19 blood-alcohol content was almost 2.5 times the legal limit of .08 and the deaths made the case very serious.
Townsend’s aunt, Judy Hill of Chico, said that the mother of two is not a monster.
“I want people to know she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. She’s full of remorse, and we’re so sorry for the victims. If anyone could undo this, it would be her.”
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