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Grove City father pleads guilty to gun, drug charges stemming from probe into teen children's deaths

LITCHFIELD — The father of two Grove City teens killed in a murder-suicide last year has pleaded guilty to two felony charges stemming from the discovery of guns and drugs during the death investigation.

Thomas Jon Cunningham, 53, pleaded guilty Monday in Meeker County District Court to receiving or possessing a firearm not identified by a serial number and to fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance.

The remaining charges of felony child endangerment, gross misdemeanor negligent storage of firearms and misdemeanor obstruction of the legal process will be dismissed at sentencing under terms of a plea agreement.

Cunningham's two children, David Lee Cunningham, 17, and Jessica Kay Cunningham, 15, were found dead by gunshot wounds at the family home in Harvey Township on Feb. 29, 2016. Authorities later determined that David shot and killed his sister and a family dog before turning the gun on himself.

According to statement of probable cause written by law enforcement regarding the incident, Thomas Cunningham found his children deceased at the home, but first removed from the residence around eight pounds of marijuana, marijuana plants and seeds and other marijuana paraphernalia before calling 911, after being prompted to do so by another individual.

When law enforcement searched the property after obtaining a search warrant, they found 20 guns and multiple boxes of ammunition in the home, a pickup truck and a pole shed. The guns and ammunition were unlocked and accessible. Seventeen of those guns were found in the bedroom of David Cunningham.

Marijuana and the related paraphernalia were located behind the property, in and around a slough about a half mile from the house.

The law enforcement report also said Thomas Cunningham encouraged and allowed both teenagers to use and possess marijuana, and allowed access to the firearms and ammunition.

Judge Stephanie Beckman ordered a presentence investigation and a chemical dependency evaluation of Thomas Cunningham before his sentencing Sept. 28.

He is expected to receive a stay of imposition and be sentenced to five years of probation under terms of the plea agreement.

Under a stay of imposition, the felony convictions may be reduced to misdemeanors on his criminal record if he successfully completes probation.