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Compton man sentenced to 15 years to life for killing his wife

A 67-year-old man was sentenced Sept. 25 to 15 years to life in prison for killing his wife of more than 30 years in their Compton home last year, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Henry Cunningham pleaded no contest July 29 to one count of second-degree murder in the killing of Melanie Ann Cunningham, according to prosecutors.

Around 1 a.m. on Dec. 17, 2018, Cunningham slit his wife's throat with a knife while she was sleeping in bed with their 1-year-old granddaughter, according to a probation report filed in court. 

Cunningham then took his granddaughter, who was unharmed, to a spare bedroom and went back to sleep. The next morning, he drove to his daughter's work with about $6,000 in cash and told her that he had just killed Melanie. 

Cunningham told sheriff's homicide detectives that he had not fought with his wife for over 20 years, but "things started going downhill" after she stared working as an in-home care nurse in Chatsworth. He suspected she was abusing drugs, according to the report.

Hours before the murder, Cunningham, his wife and their granddaughter went out to dinner to celebrate the victim's 58th birthday. After the outing, they returned home and went to bed.

Cunningham told the detectives that he believed his wife was putting drugs into his body, and felt the "drug stuff," in his system when he woke up shortly after. He said he had a strange feeling that told him to "get her or she was going to get him," which prompted him to retrieve a 12-inch knife from the kitchen to cut the victim's throat.

Prosecutors said there were no traces of drugs in his system at the time of his arrest.

Cunningham had initially been charged with one count of murder and one misdemeanor count of cruelty to a child by inflicting injury. The misdemeanor count was later dismissed as a result of the plea, according to district attorney's office.

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