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Woman accused of using Facebook while driving is charged with homicide

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Abby Sletten

(CNN) — A North Dakota woman who police say was using Facebook on her cellphone when she crashed into another car is accused of negligent homicide in the death of a great-grandmother during the May accident.

Abby Sletten, 20, appeared in Traill County District Court on Wednesday to face a count of negligent homicide, court documents said.

Sletten is accused of driving 85 mph on a North Dakota highway May 27 while using her cellphone when her car rear-ended an SUV.

Jennifer Meyers was driving the SUV with her daughter and 89-year-old grandmother, according to an affidavit. A witness told police he saw Meyers’ brake lights and turn signal when Sletten’s Ford Escape plowed into the car on Interstate I-29.

Sletten did not brake and nearly hit the witness’ vehicle after striking Meyers’ SUV, according to the affidavit.

Meyers’ grandmother, Phyllis Gordon, a Minnesota resident, was a passenger in the front seat and died on the scene, the affidavit said.

Meyers and her daughter Paige, who also live in Minnesota, were treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, the court documents said.

Investigators later obtained a warrant to search Sletten’s phone and determined she was looking at photos on her mobile Facebook app at the time of the crash, according to the affidavit. She had also sent text messages while driving. The lack of skid marks on the road suggested Sletten did not see Meyers’ car in front of her, the documents said.

Police obtained a warrant and arrested Sletten on August 27.

North Dakota Highway Patrol Capt. Bryan Niewind said it is against state law to compose or read electronic messages while driving.

Although many car accidents happen because of distracted driving, it’s difficult to determine whether cellphone usage is the cause unless officials are able to search the suspect’s phone, as they did in Sletten’s case, Niewind said.

“We do get behind vehicles and all of a sudden they’re weaving on the road,” Traill County Sheriff Mike Crocker told CNN affiliate KVLY/KXJB. “We do initiate a traffic stop and try to find out what’s going on. Texting and driving to me … is becoming a very serious problem.”

The North Dakota texting and driving law, enacted in 2011, prohibits drivers from reading, writing and sending electronic messages, including email, KVLY/KXJB reported. The law carries a $100 fine, but Crocker said a tougher law was needed.

“We gotta have a reason for them to not text and drive,” the sheriff told KVLY/KXJB.

According to a 2011 survey by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers between 18 and 20 have the “highest incidence of crash or near-crash experience,” and report the highest level of phone involvement at the time of a crash or near crash. At least half the drivers said talking on a phone made no difference in how they drive.

Two out of 10 drivers said they drove more slowly when talking on the phone, according to the NHTSA survey.

Sletten, a resident of Hatton, is to appear in court October 8. Her lawyer, Bruce Quick, declined to comment.

Traill County State Prosecuting Attorney Stuart Larson was out of town and unavailable for comment.

According to Paulette Bowersox, clerk of Traill County District Court, bail was set at $5,000.

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13 comments

  • ShadowWalker59

    Send this little broad to prison for 40 years!!! That will teach some snot nosed little girl who thinks she can outdrive guys and show the world how fast she can drive, a very valuable lesson!!! LOL, LOL, LOL, it’s………………so long kid, I hope you NEVER get to drive again!! One less texter off the roads, never to bother anyone again.

    • Savanna Schlaht

      How dare all of you to use such harsh and evil comments on this sad event:( Abby Sletten is just like you or I. Everyone makes mistakes, some way more tragic than others but we ALL MAKE MISTAKES!!! I’m sure if Abby Sletten were asked if

      • Bill Harris

        Maybe just like you, but not me. Doing shit like that while driving is a superb way to go boots up starin’ at nothing. In an age where there are more morons per square inch than grains of sand — many of them high on newly-legalized pot — the last thing we need is internet browsing drivers. Christ … is there no end to stupidity that gets innocent people killed?

        • Bill Harris

          … by the way, I disassociate myself from the hateful comments above and below. I agree with you that some of the remarks comments are completely callous. This is tragic for both families, and nothing for shallow idiots to LOL about or mention how cute somebody is or isn’t.

  • Ghostrider

    Unless it can be proven that she was using her phone at the actual time of the crash she is innocent. People are a little to willing to assume guilt these days.

    • jade walker

      Queen of denial they already said TEXT MESSAGES WERE ALSO SENT AT THE TIME. Common sense we already knows what happens when you use your phone and drive

  • Savanna Schlaht

    Your in my prayers and thoughts Abby:) And all you cruel hearted people leaving your pathetic nonsense on here, I also pray for you

  • Cody

    What is it with people these days and thinking they can text a drive. Obviously your going to be bound to get into a wreck when your paying more attention to whats on a stupid phone and less attention to what direction the car is going. I’m sorry I’m 20 years old and there’s no excuses for this kind of stuff, when I drive I choose to completely ignore my phone and don’t look at it until I’m finished driving. That’s what everyone should do its a very easy thing to do. Lives are more important than the contents on a cell phone. This girl should loose her license and I don’t feel bad saying it. One less to text a drive

  • mahituna

    another idiot who thinks driving is some inconvenience to her texting and social network status. until these idiots are severely punished nothing will change. just the other day I saw a dumb girl rearend a truck while texting, the cop got her to admit it because phone was located with texts still on screen at time of crash.