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She was drunk and tried to pass a truck, cops say. Now she’s charged with murder

Karen Yvonne Schwamb
Karen Yvonne Schwamb Plumas County Sheriff’s Department

A Plumas County woman is facing three counts of murder stemming from a collision Monday in the Feather River Canyon that left three people dead and injured two others.

Karen Yvonne Schwamb, 48, of Twain, appeared in Plumas County Superior Court on Wednesday to respond to a four-count complaint filed by District Attorney David Hollister.

In addition to three counts of second-degree murder, Hollister charged Schwamb with felony driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs and causing injury with a prior conviction.

Schwamb was driving a Subaru Outback 14 miles northwest of Quincy at 80 miles an hour when she attempted to pass a Ford pickup truck on a curve over a solid yellow line, according to a California Highway Patrol report. The vehicles collided, causing multiple rollovers that forced a motorcycle to crash into Schwamb’s car.

The CHP identified the deceased victims as Thomas Fridrich, 61, of Belden, who was driving the pickup truck; John A. Lowe, 46, of Paradise, driver of the motorcycle; and Crystal A. Smith, 40, of Paradise, his passenger.

Also injured in the three-vehicle accident were James D. Timberlake, 58, of Twain, whose injuries were minor; and Schwamb, who sustained major injuries.

During the course of his investigation, Hollister learned that Schwamb had a prior conviction, which contributed to his charging her with second-degree murder instead of vehicular manslaughter.

Schwamb is scheduled to return to court Friday for continued arraignment and appointment of an attorney. She is being held in the Plumas County jail in lieu of a $3 million bond.

If convicted, Schwamb could face 48 years to life in state prison, Hollister said.

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