An Australian mother-of-four could face the death penalty if convicted over the murder of her seven-year-old stepdaughter in Arizona.
Lisa Cunningham, 43, and her husband Germayne Cunningham, 39, allegedly abused and neglected Sanaa Cunningham, who died from pneumonia and complications from sepsis in February 2017.
The couple are accused of zip-tying the child to a water tank in a garage and neglecting to treat a septic wound to her foot.
Sanaa was also made to pick up dog faeces by the pair with her bare hands and restrained in a straight-jacket-like long-sleeved shirt, the prosecution allege.
On Monday, a Maricopa County judge ruled Lisa and Germayne Cunningham would face the death penalty if convicted.
Prosecutors allege Sanaa was unable to expel liquid from her lungs as a result of being restrained, exacerbating her pneumonia and leaving her unresponsive.
According to The Phoenix New Times, Sanaa’s death went unreported by state welfare agents for months before a grand jury charged them with 10 counts of child abuse and one of first-degree murder in December.
The couple were allowed to remain free until Monday, when judge Michael Kemp ruled prosecutors had enough evidence to justify their aim to seek the death penalty.
He said: ‘There were many warning signs with regard to her need for medical attention.
‘This was more than reckless behaviour. This was more than a failure to provide care and it led to the child’s death.’
But Lisa Cunningham’s lawyer Taylor Fox argued doctors had differing views about what killed the seven-year-old – who noted the autopsy was inconclusive as to whether Sanaa was killed or died by accident.
Mr Fox also said the accused called a doctor two days before she died, but had to wait until Monday to book an appointment.
Lisa and Germayne Cunningham, a former Phoenix policeman, have been refused bail, with a hearing date schedule for October.
The method of death penalty in Arizona is lethal injection, but a criminal convicted before November 23 1992 can also opt to be killed by gas inhalation.
No-one has been executed by death penalty in the state since 2014.
The Australian had lived in the US for 20 years and is eligible for $500,000 in funds from the Attorney-General – which provides support to Australians facing the death penalty overseas.