Editor's note: This story has been edited to add another misdemeanor charge to which Michael Kessler has pleaded not guilty.
A 36-year-old San Luis Obispo man pleaded not guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter in connection with a crash that killed a 27-year-old Cayucos woman last week.
Michael Alan Kessler appeared in San Luis Obispo Superior Court this morning and entered his plea to the manslaughter charges, and four other counts, before Judge Jacquelyn Duffy.
Kessler will appear next before Duffy on May 9 for a pre-preliminary hearing, and his bail has been set at $100,000.
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He pleaded not guilty to felony charges of gross vehicular manslaughter, hit-and-run causing death and possession of methamphetamine. He also pleaded not guilty to possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license for a prior DUI, which are misdemeanors. He also faces the enhanced penalty of fleeing the scene of the wreck.
Kessler allegedly caused the crash on Highway 1 in the early morning hours of April 18, killing Ashley Elizabeth Malmen.
The California Highway Patrol determined that Kessler was under the influence of drugs while driving north in a 2012 Toyota when he drifted off the roadway, struck a road marker, and veered to the left across the northbound lanes of the highway, according to Officer J.W. Townsen.
The vehicle struck the concrete wall and began to roll, ejecting Malmen from the vehicle, according to CHP. She was not wearing a seatbelt, Townsen said.
Malmen was pronounced dead at the scene. Kessler fled the scene and was later located on the frontage road off Highway 1, authorities said.