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9/7/2019
Man charged with attempted murder

By SAM ALLEN
Daily News Staff Writer

Robert B. Cunningham, 49, was arraigned Friday in Ketchikan District Court on three felony charges — attempted murder in the first degree, kidnapping in the first degree and assault in the third degree. Cunningham also was charged with interfering with the report of a crime involving domestic violence, a misdemeanor offense.

The charges stem from an incident Thursday morning in which Cunningham allegedly handcuffed a woman he was in a relationship with, threatened to kill her and her family, hung her until she passed out twice, and then asked her to stay while he hung himself, according to an Alaska State Trooper John M. Brown's affidavit included in the criminal complaint.

The alleged victim was able to get out a text message to a coworker that read, "Don't text back. He has phone. Send trooper. Need help. He hung me.”

In court Friday, Ketchikan District Court Judge Kevin Miller set Cunningham's bail at $150,000; $100,000 performance, $50,000 appearance.

Miller cited "admissions with respect to conduct" from Cunningham as justifying a substantial cash bail to protect the community and the alleged victim.

"Your honor, the allegations here are horrifying," said Ketchikan District Attorney Timothy McGillicuddy, noting that the victim was present in the courtroom. "She has substantial bruising all the way around her neck, underneath her chin, up and down her arms."

McGillicuddy asked for a $200,000 bail, saying that the defendant is not a long-term resident, having been here about a year, and so there was a potential for fleeing, given the seriousness of charges. According to court documents Cunningham has a license from Oklahoma.

"It appears that he did this sober," said McGillicuddy of the defendant, indicating a potential performance risk.

The Alaska State Troopers received a phone call at 10:30 a.m. Thursday from a concerned party and responded to a Forest Park residence.

According to the trooper report, Cunningham answered the door and said something to the effect of, “Take me to jail," while handing Sgt. Gary Webb a cell phone.

The victim had just got out of the shower and was dripping wet. Cunningham had allegedly uncuffed her so she could take a shower and he could use the noose on himself.

Trooper Brown, who also responded, knew ahead of time that Cunningham and the victim had been in a relationship for a few months and resided in the same residence, according to the affidavit.

The victim told the troopers that she woke up around 7:30 a.m. to Cunningham on top of her trying to handcuff her. When she resisted, he allegedly put a knife up to her neck and threated to kill her if she didn't comply.

After cuffing her he allegedly placed a noose around her neck, pulling her into the kitchen and throwing the loose end of the rope around a rafter. Cunningham lifted her into the air with the noose around her neck, causing her to lose consciousness on two separate occasions, according to the trooper report.

When she regained consciousness the first time, she was on the kitchen floor. The next time she woke up on the bed in a bedroom.

The noose was still around her neck, but the handcuffs that had been behind her were now in front of her.

Cunningham was in the kitchen talking to someone on the phone and was overheard saying he was going away for five years.

During this time, the victim took her iPad out from under the bed and texted someone to notify the troopers.

According to the trooper report, she had red abrasions around her neck and both wrists. She also had red abrasions and bruising on the inside of her right arm. She was bleeding from the mouth and said she was having difficulty breathing. She reported that her tongue was numb and swollen.

A red rope fashioned with a noose was observed around a rafter hanging from the kitchen ceiling. According to the trooper report, brown hair was still in the noose.

In court Friday, Miller appointed a lawyer for Cunningham.

Attempted murder in the first degree and kidnapping in the first degree are unclassified felonies, the most serious felony offenses. Sentencing can range from five years to 99 years, according to Alaska Statutes. Assault in the third degree, is a Class C felony, which has a maximum sentence of five years and a $50,000 fine. Interfering with the report of a crime involving domestic violence is a misdemeanor offense with a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $25,000 fine.

McGillicuddy stated that Cunningham had a 2007 conviction for resisting arrest, but otherwise didn't have a substantial criminal background. However, McGillicuddy said that given Cunningham's statements, the state has a strong case.

Miller instructed Cunningham that he would be subject to searches of his person and motor, and avoid contact with the victim and not to go back to the residence if he was released on bail.

Cunningham's next scheduled court appearance is a preliminary hearing on Sept. 13.