Former Phoenix officer, wife charged, not arrested in daughter’s death

Dec 13, 2017, 4:55 AM | Updated: 9:10 pm
Sanaa Cunningham (GoFundMe Photo)...
Sanaa Cunningham (GoFundMe Photo)
(GoFundMe Photo)

PHOENIX — The father and stepmother of 7-year-old Sanaa Cunningham, a Goodyear girl who died in February, have been indicted on first-degree murder charges, but have not been arrested.

Germayne and Lisa Cunningham were indicted by a grand jury earlier this month on one count of first-degree murder and 10 counts of child abuse.

According to a source with the police department, Sanaa had bruises, scars and cuts all over her body. She had been forced to sleep outside, was often restrained and ziptied, and at one point was tied to a water container.

The police official said Germayne and Lisa Cunningham claimed that the 7-year-old had mental illnesses and was prone to hurting herself.

An autopsy conducted by the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office found the girl died from sepsis and many other medical conditions, but the manner of death was undetermined.

Germayne Cunningham worked for the Phoenix Police Department between 2005 and 2017 before he resigned in September. He was the child’s biological father.

The Arizona Department of Child Safety had multiple dealings with the family before the girl died, but did not have enough evidence over a months-long period to legally justify removing the child from her home, the DCS director said.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said Tuesday that he did not seek the arrest of Germayne and Lisa Cunningham because he does not “have the power to arrest, so I can’t.”

“Under Arizona law, the default when you have a known address is to issue a summons,” he said. “There are very narrow circumstances in which we can legitimately request an arrest warrant.”

Montgomery said he has taken into account the courts’ increasing focus on releasing inmates, regardless of the severity of a case or the charges, when looking to default to a summons — unless there are specific circumstances present.

But the attorney admitted that there “have been other cases” when a person was charged with first degree murder and was not subsequently arrested, adding that he would “have to go back and take a look at them.”

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office told KTAR News 92.3 FM that they are checking their records for that information and will provide it when it is ready.

The Goodyear Police Department also had the option to arrest the former Phoenix police officer and his wife, but said they went along with Montgomery’s recommendation.

In an email, the Goodyear Police Department said “the Maricopa County Attorney chose to have the Cunningham’s served with a court summons in lieu of being taken into immediate custody.”

The couple will appear next in court on Jan. 2.

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Former Phoenix officer, wife charged, not arrested in daughter’s death