A 20-year-old driver has been charged with negligent homicide, accused of surfing Facebook on her cellphone when she rear-ended an SUV at 85 miles per hour, without braking, on a North Dakota highway and killed an 89-year-old great-grandmother from northwestern Minnesota.
Abby E. Sletten, of Hatton, N.D., appeared Wednesday in Traill County District Court after being charged with killing Phyllis Gordon of Ada, Minn., along northbound Interstate 29 between Fargo and Grand Forks early in the afternoon of May 27.
A search of Sletten’s cellphone by police “determined that [she] was viewing pictures on her Facebook application … at the time of the crash,” the criminal complaint read. “Sletten had also sent and received several text messages since she departed from Fargo.”
Also according to the complaint:
A driver heading north toward Grand Forks told a Highway Patrol officer that he was traveling at 80 mph when Sletten’s SUV passed him on the left. Up ahead, the witness also saw another SUV slowing in an attempt to make a U-turn using an unauthorized crossover.
Sletten, her brake lights remaining dark, crashed into the other SUV.
Gordon, a front-seat passenger, died at the scene, even though “several people were performing [CPR]” in an effort to revive her as she was on the ground next to the vehicle in the median.
Gordon’s granddaughter, driver Jennifer L. Myers, 34, and Myers’ daughter survived their injuries.
The patrol determined that Sletten was traveling 84 to 86 mph at the time of impact, and there was no evidence that she tried to brake. This “suggested the possibility that Sletten may have not seen the vehicle in front of her or that she was possibly distracted while driving,” the complaint read.
Sletten told a patrol officer that she had no recollection of the crash.
Gordon and her husband, James, raised a family of three children and farmed together near Borup, Minn. She worked in grocery stores and as a baker and a home health aide. Her survivors include eight grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.