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Australian Woman Faces Death Penalty In The U.S.

Lisa Cunningham could be sentenced to death for the abuse and murder of her seven-year-old stepdaughter.

Australian woman Lisa Cunningham faces a potential death sentence in the U.S. after being indicted in Arizona for the abuse and murder of her seven-year-old stepdaughter.

A Maricopa County judge ruled after a two-day hearing Cunningham and her American husband, Germayne Cunningham, were eligible for the death penalty if convicted at their upcoming trial.

The Phoenix Times newspaper reported Cunningham's daughter, Sanaa, died of pneumonia and complications such as sepsis in February last year.

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Prosecutors allege the Cunninghams restrained Sanaa with plastic ties, a makeshift straight jacket and shackles, forced her to wear diapers and locked her in a laundry room or outside.

The court heard Sanaa, who was afflicted by schizophrenia and other behavioural disorders, died four hours after she was taken to hospital.

"There were many warning signs with regard to her need for medical attention," Judge Michael Kemp said at last week's hearing, according to the Phoenix Times.

"This was more than reckless behaviour.

"This was more than a failure to provide care and it led to the child's death."

The Weekend Australian newspaper reported Lisa Cunningham, 43, grew up in Adelaide and moved to the US after marrying an American serviceman 20 years ago.