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West Valley man may have brutally killed elderly grandmother, who is still missing

A man arrested three weeks ago for allegedly kidnapping and torturing his wife is now charged with brutally killing his elderly grandmother, according to court documents.

A man arrested three weeks ago for allegedly kidnapping and torturing his wife is now charged with brutally killing his elderly grandmother, according to court documents. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

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WEST VALLEY CITY — A man arrested three weeks ago for allegedly kidnapping and torturing his wife has now been charged with murder in the alleged brutal killing of his elderly grandmother, according to court documents.

Garman Shaun Cunningham, 50, of West Valley, was charged Wednesday by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office with aggravated murder and aggravated kidnapping, both first-degree felonies; obstructing justice, a second-degree felony; two counts of aggravated assault, and three counts of illegal discharge of a firearm, both third-degree felonies.

According to court documents, Cunningham allegedly killed his 99-year-old grandmother, identified only in court documents by the initials M.C. As of Wednesday, her body had not been found. But based on blood and other forensic evidence as well as statements from Cunningham's wife — whom Cunningham is also believed to have tortured — charges were filed.

The investigation began Nov. 12 when police were called to Cunningham's residence, at 3360 S. Greenmont Drive. His wife had called 911 claiming she had been held hostage and beaten by Cunningham since Nov. 1, according to charging documents. The wife had escaped her home and hopped a fence to get to her neighbor's house to call police, the charges state.

Officers who responded to the scene observed the wife "had marks all over her body including head wounds, cuts, open sores and what appeared to be healing burns. (She) explained that Cunningham had beat her, cut her with knives, burned her with cigarettes and cut her with broken glass. She stated that she was also kept handcuffed to a chair and threatened with a gun. (She) described being strangled multiple times during her captivity," according to the charges.

After police surrounded the home and ordered Cunningham to come out, they heard three shots over a 30-minute period, as well as windows breaking and large objects being moved inside the house, the charges state. Cunningham eventually came out of his house carrying a sword and ran through several yards before a police K-9 was able to chase him down and grab onto him, according to the charges.

After Cunningham's arrest, the wife told detectives that on Nov. 1, Cunningham attempted to smother his grandmother with a pillow and then beat her with his fists, causing what the wife believed was the grandmother's head to "cave in," the charges state. He then threw the grandmother down a flight of stairs before attempting to strangle the wife, according to the charges.

When Cunningham realized his grandmother wasn't dead, he picked her up and took her to the top of the stairs and threw her down a second time, the wife told police, the charges state. He then stabbed the grandmother in the neck with a piece of her broken walker and, according to the charging documents, threw her down another flight of stairs leading to the basement.

The wife told detectives that Cunningham then went into the basement with a steak knife to "finish her off," charging documents state.

"(The wife) stated that Cunningham took (his grandmother's) body to the garage and she heard him wrap (her) in plastic and tape. Cunningham told (his wife) that he drove up the mountain and dumped (his grandmother's) body off the side of the road by rolling her body down an incline in hopes nobody would see her," the charges state.

The wife told police she was handcuffed to a chair during her captivity and not allowed to eat and lost about 30 pounds during that time, according to the charges. She also stated she was forced to clean up "large quantities of blood" and "act as a lookout for police," the charges state.

"A forensic search of the residence with special chemicals and lights showed evidence remaining that was consistent with large quantities of blood at the base of the stairs, the downstairs laundry room and the garage, that someone attempted to clean up," charging documents state.

Police also noted that all the furniture and carpeting in the grandmother's room had been removed, the charges state.

"Multiple live rounds and discharged casings were located in various areas of the home, as well as handcuffs, various knives, swords and two firearms," according to the charges.

Detectives also searched a dumpster that was delivered to the Cunningham residence on Nov. 4.

"Inside the dumpster, a broken walker was found, as was bedding, a swath of carpet, clothing, cleaning supplies and other materials, including a shower curtain. All these items were covered in what tested positive for human blood," the charges state.

Forensic tests were conducted on the blood which matched the grandmother's DNA profile, the charges state.

Tracing data collected from Cunningham's phone, investigators believe he was the Kamas area after allegedly killing his grandmother. But as of Wednesday, her body had not been found. Other friends and family members have not seen the woman since Nov. 1, the charges noted.

Prosecutors have requested Cunningham be held in the Salt Lake County Jail with no opportunity to post bail, pending trial.

Domestic violence resources

Help for people in abusive relationships can be found by contacting:

Utah Domestic Violence Coalition: Utah's confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic violence hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465)

YWCA Women in Jeopardy program: 801-537-8600

Utah's statewide child abuse and neglect hotline: 1-855-323-DCFS (3237)

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the team in 2021, after many years of reporting at the Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio before that.


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