DECATUR — A Decatur man faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars after a Macon County jury on Thursday found him guilty of raping and torturing a woman.
The jury took just under four hours to decide Demariel T. Cunningham, 37, tortured a 30-year-old woman by burning her with repeatedly with a heated knife blade, beating her and raping her several times while holding her against her will at an eastside home April 22.
Cunningham was convicted of one count of aggravated criminal sexual assault causing bodily harm and another count of aggravated criminal sexual assault while armed with a wooden stick, both Class X felonies. He was also convicted of one count of armed violence with a knife, a Class X felony; and one count of armed violence while armed with deadly or dangerous weapons, a Class 2 felony. He was further convicted of aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and one count of aggravated unlawful restraint, both Class 3 felonies.
The jury found him not guilty of one count of aggravated criminal sexual assault.
Cunningham, who is being held in the Macon County Jail, is due to be sentenced Feb. 26 when he faces from 16 to 70 years in prison.
With its verdicts, the jury concurred with the portrayal of Cunningham as a heartless thug by Assistant Macon County State’s Attorney Kate Kurtz during opening arguments on Tuesday.
Kurtz described Cunningham as venting his rage on the victim by torturing and beating her for several hours. She was burned repeatedly with a heated knife blade on her arms, thigh and back, and hit so hard with an aluminum baseball bat she was left with cracked ribs and massive bruising, Kurtz said. And while all this was going on, Cunningham repeatedly raped the victim, Kurtz said.
Another Decatur man, Charles E. Hill, 57, is accused of taking part in the beating. He testified against Cunningham as part of a plea deal that will see him serve 3½ years in prison for aggravated battery.
Public defender Scott Rueter argued on Tuesday that the victim’s testimony was unreliable and she had already told a “a number of different stories” about what happened. Rueter also argued that it was Hill who had been the primary aggressor, not Cunningham.
The court was told the victim had originally told detectives she had been tortured to reveal the location of a drug stash. But she testified she had been tortured to reveal the location of a expensive Rolex watch belonging to Cunningham that she had stolen and hidden. She said she had planned to use the watch as “collateral” to get him to supply her with more crack cocaine, but the watch was lost.