A former Phoenix detective and his wife were indicted on Dec. 1 by a grand jury on first-degree murder charges for the mysterious February death of a 7-year-old girl.
Germayne Cunningham and his wife, Lisa Cunningham, allegedly abused Sanaa Cunningham over a period of several months. Lisa is the stepmother of Sanaa, while Germayne is her biological father.
Prosecutors allege Sanaa was made to do “forcible work” in the backyard during the summer, was tied to a restrictive device called a RIPP restraint. Prosecutors also said Sanaa was sometimes tied to the garage, laundry room or patio “with trash,” reported The Arizona Republic.
The couple also faces 10 counts of child abuse in addition to the murder charge.
Germayne was a 12-year veteran with the Goodyear Police Department and resigned in September amid an investigation within the department.
Goodyear Police Department spokeswoman Lisa Kutis said the indictment resulted after an extensive 10-month investigation into they believed was a “suspicious” death.
In an autopsy completed by the Maricopa Office of the Medical Examiner, Sanna’s death was determined to come from “complications of sepsis in the setting of acute bronchitis with bronchiolitis and early bronchopneumonia, right foot abscess, multiple skin ulcerations, and unspecified schizophrenia spectrum disorder,” reported ABC 15.
However, the Cunninghams claim the criminal charges actually come from a dispute with the state Department of Child Safety, which they say are truly to blame for Sanaa’s death. The family says when Sanaa was in state custody, but still living with the family, they were ordered to put her on anti-psychotic medications. On a GoFundMe page for Sanaa’s death, the family said she died from “severe side effects” from the medication.
The Cunninghams also said the abuse claims about them restraining Sanaa were misrepresented. They said they had to isolate Sanaa for her own protection and the protection of other members in the household.
However, court documents also alleged the Cunninghams forced Sanaa to sleep outside and failed to provide medical care.
After Sanaa’s death in February, a medical staffer noticed unusual injuries on the child and alerted authorities.
Sanaa had five other siblings, according to the GoFundMe page. The campaign is no longer active, but ultimately raised more than $8,000.
The Cunninghams’s other four children were removed from their home in April after they talked openly about suing DCS over Sanaa’s death. Those children remain in out-of-home placements.
Sanaa’s death still remains “suspicious” after several months of investigation.