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Hatton woman charged with killing a great-grandmother in Facebooking, texting crash

HILLSBORO, N.D. – A Hatton woman faces criminal charges in the death of a great-grandmother after prosecutors allege she was on her cellphone texting and using Facebook when she rear-ended the car carrying the older woman.

An arrest warrant for Abby Elaine Sletten, 20, was issued Wednesday in Traill County District Court for one count of negligent homicide, a Class C felony.

Court documents say North Dakota Highway Patrol troopers were dispatched at 1:50 p.m. May 27 to the scene of a fatal car crash along Interstate 29 near mile marker 108 near Hillsboro.

When they arrived, several people were performing CPR on an elderly woman in the passenger seat of an SUV in the median.

Troopers spoke with the SUV’s driver, Jennifer Myers, who told them she was driving her grandmother, Phyllis Gordon, and her 17-year-old daughter to Caledonia from Hillsboro.

Myers told the troopers she thought there was an exit just ahead to Caledonia.

Because they were standing at a crossover, a trooper asked Myers if she tried to make a U-turn there, court documents state. Myers, who allegedly appeared shaken by the crash, said she didn’t remember.

Her grandmother was pronounced dead at the scene a short time after this, the trooper’s report says.

Myers and her daughter were taken to a hospital by ambulance, as was Sletten, who was the driver of the other car, which came to rest in the east ditch.

While troopers were processing the scene, a witness reportedly contacted them and said he was passed by Sletten’s car, which he estimated was going between 85 and 90 mph.

He also had seen Myers’ car, with its brake lights and left turn signal on, apparently trying to cross the median using the crossover.

The witness, who told the trooper he was a city traffic engineer in Grand Forks, said Sletten didn’t get out of the passing lane, and that he could see the situation was unsafe before the crash happened.

He told the trooper he didn’t see Sletten brake before she rear-ended the SUV with such force that her car nearly hit his when it bounced off and traveled across the driving lane.

A crash reconstruction allegedly found that Sletten’s vehicle was going about 85 mph when it rear-ended the SUV, and that there were no skid marks on the road, indicating Sletten likely didn’t see the SUV or was driving distracted.

Court documents say a search of Sletten’s cellphone showed she was looking at pictures on her Facebook page at the time of the crash, and had been sending texts since she’d left Fargo.

A voicemail left for Sletten was not returned.

Sletten’s first court appearance has not been set.

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