PHOENIX (AP) - The state Department of Child Safety had multiple dealings with the family of a 7-year-old girl before she died Feb. 12 but did not have enough evidence over a months-long period to legally justify removing the child from her home, officials said Tuesday.
The department released a preliminary report on the death of Sanaa Cunningham, whose father and stepmother were charged in a Dec. 1 indictment alleging first-degree murder and 10 counts each of child abuse.
Court records did not list attorneys who could comment on the allegations against Germayne and Lisa Cunningham, and calls by The Associated Press to a cellphone listed under Germayne Cunningham’s name were not answered Tuesday.
The couple previously said the criminal investigation that resulted in the charges stemmed from a dispute with the Department of Child Safety, the Arizona Republic reported. Department spokesman Darren DaRonco did not immediately return a call for comment on the couple’s assertion.
Germayne Cunningham was a Phoenix police officer for 12 years before he resigned in September.
According to Goodyear police, Sanaa Cunningham died after being taken to an urgent care center with bruises and scratches all over her body.
The Department of Child Safety said it received reports in March 2016, October 2016 and December 2016 of alleged neglect, possible sexual abuse and allegations of neglect and physical abuse.
“In each instance that DCS investigated, there was not sufficient evidence to legally justify removing Sanaa from her home or to mandate court ordered services. Sanaa had an extensive documented history of multiple psychiatric and behavioral health issues and was under the care of various medical professionals for treatment,” the agency said.
An autopsy conducted by the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office found the girl died from complications of sepsis, a potentially fatal condition that occurs when a person’s body goes out of control while fighting infection.
Following the indictment, the girl’s siblings were removed from the family home and placed in foster care or in the care of the child’s other parent, the department said.
The agency said it was grateful to Goodyear police and county prosecutors “for their 10-month pursuit of justice for Sanaa. The facts surrounding this case were clearly complex and required thoughtful compilation. DCS will continue to assist in any way possible.”
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