Dodge City resident Brock Cunningham, 28, appeared in court Thursday for the first time since his Jan. 17 arrest on charges of first degree murder and child abuse. Both the defense and prosecution were met by a full courtroom as they prepared for what has proven to be a case with heightened public interest.
Cunningham's charges stem from the November 2008 death of Natalie Pickle. She was 3 1/2 at the time of her death, which was ruled a homicide in December 2008. The case has remained open since then.
Pickle's mother, Amanda Perry, was at work Nov. 19 and had left her children in Cunningham's care. Pickle died the following day at a Wichita hospital. At the time of Pickle's death, Cunningham reportedly told investigators she had fallen off the bed.
Recently elected Ford County Attorney Natalie Randall will act as prosecutor for the case. Cunningham has retained Wichita lawyer Dan Monnat for his defense. An additional lawyer from Monnat's law firm will serve as co-counsel.
Monnat addressed the court Thursday about a timeline for Cunningham's next appearance. Cunningham waived his right to a preliminary hearing within 10 days of a first appearance; a status conference will be set within 60 days in front of District Judge E. Leigh Hood.
Questions have risen as to what triggered an arrest in the cold case after the passage of so much time.
Randall declined to comment on the case until court proceedings have concluded.
Former Ford County Attorney Terry Malone said simply that he did not have anything to do with the filing of the charges and it would be inappropriate for him to comment on Cunningham's arrest.
Monnat also declined to make a statement following Thursday's hearing.
Cunningham's bond is set at $75,000. He was released from custody Jan. 17.