HomeNewsLocalWoman Ordered to Stand Trial in Woman's Stabbing Death in Parking Garage

Woman Ordered to Stand Trial in Woman’s Stabbing Death in Parking Garage

TORRANCE (CNS) – A woman who sued the county after being arrested and then released in connection with the stabbing death of a woman in a parking garage at a Rolling Hills Estates mall — but who was subsequently re-arrested more than five years later — was ordered Monday to stand trial on murder and robbery charges.

Superior Court Judge Alan B. Honeycutt rejected a defense request to dismiss the case against Cherie Lynnette Townsend, 45.

Townsend was charged last Aug. 16 with one count each of murder and second-degree robbery involving the May 3, 2018, killing of Susan Leeds, 66, of Rancho Palos Verdes.

The criminal complaint alleges that Townsend personally used a knife during the commission of both crimes.

Leeds was attacked in broad daylight in the parking garage of the Promenade on the Peninsula in the 500 block of Deep Valley Drive.

Leeds was found inside her white 2016 Mercedes-Benz SUV parked on the first floor of the Promenade’s parking garage. She had been stabbed 17 times in the neck and upper body, and had one incise wound on a finger that indicated she may have tried to defend herself, according to Paul Gliniecki, a deputy medical examiner who reviewed the autopsy results on Townsend.

Townsend was initially arrested in May 2018 in connection with Leeds’ killing, then released from custody five days later after prosecutors asked law enforcement to conduct further investigation into the crime.

After Townsend’s arrest in 2018, then-Sheriff Jim McDonnell said Townsend’s vehicle — a gold 2008 Chevrolet Malibu — had been parked on the same floor. He noted then that there was still a “tremendous amount of investigative work” to be done.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in November 2018, Townsend sued Los Angeles County, McDonnell and the then-mayors of Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes, alleging false imprisonment, defamation, emotional distress, negligence and civil rights violations.

“Our client fully intends to try and repair the damage done to her and her family by being wrongly accused of murder by Sheriff McDonnell and send a message to the sheriff’s department that racial profiling is illegal and must be stopped,” Nazareth Haysbert, Townsend’s attorney, said then.

In a statement released after Townsend filed a multimillion-dollar damages claim in October 2018, the sheriff’s department called it a “very complex, yet active investigation.”

“Investigators are still receiving tips from the public and are diligently following up on each and every lead. With the lack of eyewitnesses in this case, the physical and forensic evidence collected is continually re- evaluated. Additionally, investigators are coordinating their efforts in the furtherance of this investigation with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office Major Crimes Unit,” the sheriff’s department said then.

Townsend was re-arrested Aug. 17 by the Sheriff’s Department’s Fugitive Unit and has remained behind bars since then in lieu of $2 million bail, jail records show.

During testimony in a hearing that stretched over portions of four days, the judge heard testimony that a phone belonging to Townsend was found underneath the driver’s side of the victim’s SUV and that she went to a Verizon store in Carson that afternoon to try to determine the whereabouts of her phone.

The lawsuit filed by Townsend was dismissed without prejudice last September shortly after her arrest.

Townsend is due back in a Torrance courtroom July 16 for arraignment.

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