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Woman says praying behind the wheel caused crash that injured grandmother

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BELLEVUE, Ohio-- A woman says praying behind the wheel caused a crash that injured a woman who was trying to get her grandchildren out of her car.

It happened in Bellevue, Ohio, in August 2014.

The victim, Pamela Beckham, 50, suffered a broken neck and numerous other injuries. Bellevue police initially believed that the driver, Marilyn Perry, 62, was on her cell phone at the time of the accident, or was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But, the investigation revealed she had not been using her phone and her system was clean. Still, police and prosecutors decided she should be charged with vehicular assault.

Authorities said Perry blamed the accident on prayer. She said she had been going through some personal problems and was praying as she drove, occasionally with her head down.

Police learned about the prayer defense after Perry and her attorney convinced a Huron County judge to place her in an intervention program and on three years probation.  The judge also ordered Perry to make up to $10,000 in restitution.

Darl Beckham, Pamela's husband, said they don't believe the praying while driving defense.  "I don't believe that for a second, because church-going people are better people than that. For one, they would have made some sort of attempt to at least see if she was okay, or something; they never have."