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Adelaide woman pleads not guilty to first-degree murder and child abuse in Arizona court

ABC News logo ABC News 12/09/2018

Lisa and Germayne Cunningham were charged with murder and child abuse offences. © Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Lisa and Germayne Cunningham were charged with murder and child abuse offences. A former Adelaide resident and her husband have pleaded not guilty to 11 charges, including first-degree murder and child abuse, in the US state of Arizona — if found guilty the pair will face the death penalty.

In December, former Adelaide resident Lisa Cunningham, 44, and her husband Germayne, 39, a former Phoenix Police Department detective, were indicted in an Arizona county court over the death of Mr Cunningham's daughter Sanaa.

Seven-year-old Sanaa died on February 12, 2017, with an autopsy finding the cause of death to be sepsis related to a chest infection, an abscess in her right foot, multiple skin ulcers and unspecified schizophrenia spectrum disorder.

In August, the Maricopa County Court ruled that both adults were eligible for the death penalty, remanding them in jail.

The pair briefly appeared in court in Phoenix on September 12.

Lisa and Germayne Cunningham had been investigated three times for physical abuse and neglect by Arizona Child Protection Authority.

Court documents allege the couple shut Sanaa in their backyard, laundry and garage, forced her to sleep outside, restrained her with cable ties and failed to seek medical care.

The young child had special needs, with multiple psychiatric and behavioural issues, including a severe eating disorder.

The pair have denied accusations that they harmed the child, if found guilty they face the death penalty.

Family still in disbelief

Earlier this week, Cunningham's uncle Rob Topsfield — who lives near Mannum in South Australia's Murraylands region — told the ABC the family did not believe the news at first.

"At first we just thought it was a joke, someone trying to be silly on Facebook, or a scam," he said.

"We didn't really believe it until I rang one of my great nephews and he confirmed [it].

"She was a very loving-natured girl. She's spent most of her life helping others.

"She was like a mother to her older brothers.

"It's been a bit rough."

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