A 32-year-old Florida man on trial for the deaths of his friends Anna Sorokina, 21, and Avery Hatchett, 22, in a March 2016 boating crash has taken his own life after two days in court.
A mistrial has been declared and the jury has been dismissed in the case against Judsen Cunningham, who faced a slew of charge. According to the News Herald, Cunningham was charged with “two counts of homicide/negligent manslaughter-BUI (boating under the influence), two counts of homicide/negligent manslaughter, three counts of BUI causing serious bodily injury, two counts of BUI causing damaged to property or persons, four misdemeanor charges of violating navigation rules and one count of larceny of less than $100,000.”
Cunningham was allegedly driving the boat in the early hours of March 18, 10 hours after participating in St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl with friends in Destin, Fla. The 28-foot-long boat slammed into a jetty, killing two.
If he was convicted on the many charges, Cunningham could have faced life in prison.
The judge in the case, John Jay Gontarek, made the shocking announcement on Thursday that Cunningham had taken his own life before his third day on trial. Reports say that Cunningham shot himself at his family’s home and that “multiple family members” were there at the time. Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the scene after receiving a phone call at 6:43 a.m.
“I have sad and disturbing news,” Gontarek said. “The defendant in this case, Judsen Cunningham, was found deceased this morning. This is a very shocking development for everybody.”
The apparent suicide occurred after the state had made its case and before the defense was set to respond. It also occurred after two days of harrowing witness testimony.
Lisa Hatchett, the mother of Avery Hatchett, expressed sympathy for the Cunningham family, despite the defendant’s role in her son’s death.
“I was shook to the core of my being. Today is such a sad day for the Cunningham family,” she said. “It’s a day I have experienced myself. I know what they are going to have to endure.”
[Image via WKRG screengrab]