AG: I-89 Crash Was Suicide Attempt
Driver’s Bail Set at $250K
Robert J. Dellinger, 53, of Sunapee, N.H., is arraigned by video at Lebanon District Court in Lebanon, N.H., on Dec. 11, 2013, on two counts of manslaughter in the deaths of a Wilder, Vt., couple who were killed in an automobile collision on Interstate 89 in Lebanon, N.H., on Dec. 7, 2013. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon — A former Fortune 500 executive was depressed and attempting suicide Saturday when his pickup truck crossed the Interstate 89 median and collided with an oncoming car, killing a pregnant woman and her fiance, a prosecutor said on Wednesday.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell said tire marks show that Robert Dellinger, 53, of Sunapee, accelerated as he entered the grassy median and his vehicle became airborne before shearing off the top of a vehicle occupied by Amanda Murphy and Jason Timmons.
Murphy, 24, who was due to give birth next month, and Timmons, 29, died at the scene. Dellinger suffered minor injuries.
Morrell said Dellinger was despondent and considered taking his own life following a disagreement with his wife related to his anti-depressant medication.
“He could have chosen many other ways to kill himself that would not put anyone else in danger,” Morrell said during Dellinger’s arraignment Wednesday in Lebanon District Court.
Charged with two counts of manslaughter, Dellinger is accused of recklessly causing the couple’s deaths. A single manslaughter charge carries a 30-year maximum sentence.
Dellinger was not required to enter a plea at the hearing. His next court appearance is scheduled for next Thursday.
On Wednesday, Morrell noted the stretch of I-89 where Dellinger chose to enter the median had no trees, boulders or any other obstacle that would have prevented him from traveling into the northbound lanes.
At the end of the Wednesday’s hearing, Dellinger was ordered held on $250,000 cash-only bail. His attorney told the judge during the proceedings that Dellinger, who most recently served as chief financial officer for PPG Industries of Pittsburgh, would be able to post bail.
The collision occurred around 1:15 p.m. on Saturday when Dellinger’s southbound 2005 Chevy pickup truck crossed the median and struck Murphy’s 2005 Ford Escape. Murphy was eight months pregnant, and an autopsy confirmed that the female fetus died from blunt force trauma suffered during the collision.
Dellinger was treated at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. When he was released Tuesday afternoon, he was arrested and taken to the Lebanon Police Department for processing.
Morrell said Wednesday that at the medical center after the accident, Dellinger was aware of the fatalities and allegedly told officials, “I obviously caused this.”
Morrell said there was no indication that Dellinger had been drinking.
Sunapee assessing records indicate the Dellinger family owns four properties in town, including at least two on Lake Sunapee.
A “separation agreement” filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission also indicates that PPG paid Dellinger an $800,000 lump sum and an additional $250,000 in lieu of potential bonus when he resigned as senior vice president and chief financial officer in June 2011.
The separation agreement, which also preserved some of his stock options, stated Dellinger’s “resignation was due to health-related personal reasons and was not due to any disagreement with the company.”
Dellinger previously held senior executive posts with Sprint, Delphi and General Electric.
He was being held Wednesday at the Grafton County House of Corrections in North Haverhill and appeared in court via video conference. He did not speak during the hearing except to acknowledge to the judge that he could hear the proceedings.
About 20 members of Dellinger’s family sat together in the courtroom and quietly watched the proceedings. Afterward, the family exited the courtroom together and declined to speak to multiple media outlets on hand for the hearing.
Morrell told the judge that the state considers Dellinger to be both a danger to the community and a flight risk. Morrell said that in addition to monetary assets, Dellinger owns property and a home in Kansas and has worked overseas.
“Our understanding is that he has financial resources that would allow him to leave the country,” Morrell said.
Morrell said that Dellinger has ongoing mental health issues, but the state is not aware of the extent of those conditions and how they might affect his behavior.
Morrell also requested that Dellinger submit to electronic monitoring.
Dellinger’s attorney, Peter Decato, who argued for bail to be set at $100,000, acknowledged that Dellinger has been dealing with medical issues, which were being “resolved and dealt with” through treatment in Kansas.
Decato provided the judge with a list of prescriptions that Dellinger was or is taking and a list of previously scheduled medical appointments, all in Kansas.
Decato added that he too is in the process of ascertaining the severity Dellinger’s physical and mental health conditions.
He argued that the notion that Dellinger, who has a son attending Dartmouth College, is a flight risk is “probably inaccurate.”
“I must tell you that I don’t think the amount of bail should depend on a man’s wealth,” Decato said.
Ultimately, Judge Lawrence MacLeod ordered Dellinger be held on $250,000 cash-only bail, which means the entire amount must be paid for Dellinger to be released.
As part of his conditions of release, Dellinger must remain at his Sunapee residence and cannot travel outside of New Hampshire. MacLeod rejected Decato’s request that Dellinger be allowed to travel to Kansas because of pending mental health appointments in that state.
Additionally, Dellinger may not possess firearms or operate a motor vehicle and surrendered his driver’s license and passport. He must submit to a mental health evaluation, and he will be electronically monitored.
S arah Brubeck can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3223.