“Affluenza.” The word entered common use recently, referring to the carelessness of some wealthy individuals who have so much money that they don’t consider how their actions affect those other than themselves.
Was Robert Dellinger another case of “affluenza” run amok? The 53-year-old former Fortune 500 executive who lives in a $2.3 million New Hampshire mansion and formerly earned a $3 million annual salary as Chief Financial Officer for a large Pittsburgh corporation, was arraigned today on second-degree murder charges stemming from a reckless suicide attempt that killed a young Vermont couple and their unborn child — but left Dellinger very much alive.
The tragic, and tragically avoidable incident took place on December 7 when Dellinger was driving his pickup truck on Interstate 89 in New Hampshire, and he suddenly decided to kill himself.
He later told police he was depressed. Reportedly, he had argued with his wife about something to do with his anti-depressant medication earlier in the evening. So without warning, he swerved his truck across the central median, apparently hoping to crash the vehicle into an embankment.
Instead, the truck flew into the air and sheared off the top of an oncoming SUV. That vehicle was carrying Amanda Murphy, 24, and Jason Timmons, 29. They were both killed instantly. Murphy was eight months pregnant with the couple’s first child, but the baby did not survive, according to a report by CBS News.
Dellinger, who suffered only minor injuries, was originally charged with manslaughter and freed on $250,000 bail. But at Friday’s arraignment the charges were increased to second degree murder. Prosecutors, according to New Hampshire’s Valley News, said that Dellinger displayed “an extreme indifference to the value of human life.”
Indeed, such indifference could be considered a primary symptom of “affluenza.”
“We looked at the facts and the evidence, and felt it was appropriate,” to level the more severe charges against Dellinger, said New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Diana Fenton.
This time, Lebanon, New Hampshire, Distruct Court Judge Lawrence MacLeod refused requests by Dellinger’s lawyers to grant the former CFO a bail hearing, ordering him to remain in custody at least until a scehduled January 14 hearing on probable cause in the case.
Dellinger worked as a CFO for a number of high-powered companies, including Sprint Nextel Corp. in Kansas City, before settling at PPG, manufacturing firm in Pittsburgh. He left that job due to health reasons in June of 2011, also resigning in July from the board of trustees at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Library, according to The Pittsburgh Tribune Review.
The term “affluenza” instant became part of the public dialogue after it was used by the defense to explain the actions of Ethan Crouch, a wealthy Texas teenager who earlier this month received probation but no prison time after killing four people in a drunken driving incident.