Trial begins for Hamilton father accused of killing infant

Defense argues that child died after accidental fall.

The murder trial of Phillip Cunningham began Monday in Butler County Common Pleas Court. Cunningham, 27, of Park Avenue, is charged with murder and child endangering for allegedly causing the death of Shanyla.

Butler County Assistant Prosecutor Brad Burress walked in front of the jury box holding a photo of the infant, who weighed 14 pounds and was 2 feet long at the time of her death.

Burress said during opening statements that the jury would hear and see a tape of Cunningham describing shaking his daughter for a minute and a half at half his strength when she still cried after a fall.

“You will hear him say, ‘I was frustrated because she wouldn’t stop crying,” Burress said.

Medical experts will testify about Shanyla’s injuries, including retinal hemorrhaging and two skull fractures that the baby suffered will under the care of Cunningham, Burress said. The child’s mom, Shonnon, was not home when the incident occurred, but Shanyla’s toddler brother was.

Defense attorney Jeremy Evans said during opening statements the baby’s death was an accident caused by a fall.

“While tragic, this young lady’s death was caused by an accident … a fall,” said Evans.

The infant fell from Cunningham’s arms as he reached to stop his toddler from falling from the couch, Evans said.

“Her head hit a hardwood floor,” Evans said.

The trial continues today in Judge Jennifer McElfresh’s courtroom.

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