Robert Cunningham, 48, or Orland, stands next to defense attorney Robert Van Horn during his initial appearance Wednesday in Hancock County Unified Criminal Court in Ellsworth. Cunningham is charged with manslaughter and other charges in connection with a pickup truck crash Tuesday in Orland that killed Valerie Seavey, 50. Credit: Bill Trotter

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A man who crashed his truck Tuesday in Orland, resulting in the death of a passenger, told police that he had consumed six shots of 100-proof vodka prior to getting behind the wheel.

Robert Cunningham, 48, of Orland made his first appearance Wednesday afternoon in an Ellsworth courtroom and was ordered held on $10,000 cash bail or $35,000 surety. He is facing charges of manslaughter, aggravated operating a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicants, aggravated driving to endanger and criminal speeding.

Police say Cunningham was driving a 2007 Ford Ranger west on Cedar Swamp Road at about 4:25 p.m. when he lost control at a left-hand corner near the intersection of Fox Run Road. The pickup truck went off the left side of the road before striking an embankment, according to Maine State Police Lt. Roderick Charette.

The Ranger came to a rest on its wheels in the middle of the road, Charette said. A passenger in the truck, Valerie Seavey, 50, of Orland was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle. She died at the crash scene, according to police.

Dawn Corbett, assistant district attorney for Hancock County, told Judge Robert Murray at Cunningham’s court appearance that Cunningham does not have a criminal record, but does have a “significant driving history” that extends back to 1991. His most recent offense, she said, was a 2007 conviction for operating a motor vehicle after suspension.

Corbett also told Murray that Cunningham told police at the accident scene that prior to the crash he had smoked two marijuana cigarettes and, over an unspecified period of time, had tried to commit suicide nine times.

Cunningham is due to appear in court again March 19.

According to an affidavit filed in court, Cunnigham also told police he is “sick of being a ‘pawn for god’” and that he told “god I am going to murder him.”

Defense lawyer Robert Van Horn, whom Murray appointed to represent Cunningham, told the judge that his client “more or less walked away from the crash” physically unhurt.

“It doesn’t appear he had any substantial injuries,” he said.

Van Horn said Cunningham is a self-employed carpenter who has not had work in seven months. He lives with his girlfriend in Orland, the defense attorney said, and they are unlikely to come up with enough cash or collateral to make bail soon.

“That’s not an option right now,” he told the judge.

Van Horn declined to comment after Cunningham’s appearance. A man and a woman who appeared to be friends or relatives of Cunningham were in the courtroom for the proceeding and spoke to Van Horn’s afterward, but left the courthouse without comment.

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....