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Did West Valley man commit murder? Police still investigating

West Valley police are continuing to investigate whether a man accused of holding his wife hostage and torturing her also killed a woman during the ordeal.

West Valley police are continuing to investigate whether a man accused of holding his wife hostage and torturing her also killed a woman during the ordeal. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

WEST VALLEY CITY — A man arrested nearly three weeks ago remained behind bars in the Salt Lake County Jail Friday as investigators try to determine whether he also committed murder.

Garman Shaun Cunningham, 50, was arrested on Nov. 13 for investigation of assault on a police officer, four counts of aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, discharge of a firearm and other potential charges.

As of Friday, however, formal criminal charges had not been filed by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office. Charges normally have to be filed within 72 hours of a person being arrested or that person can be released from jail. But prosecutors also have the option of filing for an extension to keep a person in jail as they continue to prepare their formal filing.

This week, the district attorney's office requested an extension on Cunningham until next week so additional investigative work can be conducted.

Although details about what that investigation includes have not been disclosed, West Valley police have confirmed they are still investigating whether anyone was killed. Cunningham's wife told police last month that while he was holding her hostage, she watched him kill a woman and dispose of her body, according to a police booking affidavit.

West Valley police spokeswoman Roxeanne Vainuku said detectives had not found evidence of a homicide as of Friday. But they also can't find the woman who might have been harmed to make sure that she is OK.

"We are working closely with the district attorney's office as our investigators continue to actively pursue leads and process evidence in this case. We have received an extension that will keep Mr. Cunningham in jail and allow investigators more time to continue their work," she said.

Police were alerted to Cunningham on Nov. 12 when then were called to 3360 S. Greenmont Drive. His wife called 911 claiming she had been held hostage by Cunningham since Nov. 1, the affidavit states.

"The victim reported that Garman had shot multiple rounds with a handgun," according to the affidavit. "The victim also reports that Garman held a gun to the victim's head, cut the victim with glass and a knife, and forced the victim to drink WD-40. During the entire length the victim was held hostage, the victim was only allowed to have very little food and was not allowed to sleep."

The wife also claimed that "Garman murdered an unidentified female while the victim watched and then disposed of the body in an undisclosed area," according to the affidavit.

Although the woman's name has not been released, police say they know her identity and were continuing to look for her on Friday.

When officers arrived on scene that day, Cunningham threw objects out the window at them, and then fired a shot at police, according to the arrest report. No one was injured.

"Garman eventually exited the residence while armed with a sword. After several commands by officers were ignored to drop the sword, less lethal force was used on Garman, and he dropped the sword," the affidavit states.

But after dropping the sword, Cunningham ran. A police K-9 was released and was able to chase down Cunningham and hold onto him until officers could handcuff him.

Police noted in their booking affidavit that Cunningham "held a victim hostage for a long period of time. Garman shot at police officers and pointed a handgun at people walking down the street. Several methods of torture were used during this incident."

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