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Dereak Turner (Hayward Police Department)

HAYWARD -- Nearly four years after a father was gunned down in front of his 13-year-old daughter on a walk to get ice cream, police have arrested a suspect in the case.

Dereak Turner, 24, of Vallejo, was in custody after prosecutors charged him with murder on Wednesday in connection to the 2009 slaying of 38-year-old Hayward resident Thomas Cunningham, said Hayward Police Sgt. Mark Ormsby.

Cunningham, who worked as a head janitor for the Dublin Unified School District, was walking with his teenage daughter and their two dogs after getting ice cream at 10 p.m. on Nov. 24, 2009. They had just left L&M Liquors at B and Vermont streets and were returning from a two-block trip with the dogs -- a year-old German shepherd and a Chihuahua-Pekingese mix -- when the German shepherd, described as playful, sniffed at a man standing on the sidewalk.

The man didn't like it and told Cunningham to get the dog away from him. His daughter pulled the dog away, but the man began to argue with Cunningham, police said. The man got angry, Ormsby said, pulled out a handgun and shot Cunningham twice in the upper torso as his daughter looked on.

As the man fled on foot, Cunningham's daughter ran back to the liquor store and told a clerk to dial 911, Ormsby said.

Paramedics arrived within minutes, and Cunningham was taken to Eden Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Relatives say that more than anything in the world, Cunningham loved his daughter, now 17.

He shared custody of the girl, spending every other week with her.


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"She was really close to her dad, and he loved to take her all kinds of places," said Nancy Cunningham soon after his death. She separated from Thomas Cunningham a year and a half before the shooting. "They'd go fishing, to Raiders games, to the park with the dogs."

Hayward police arrested Turner without incident at 1 p.m. Tuesday in the 300 block of Tuolumne Street near the Vallejo courthouse but did not reveal how they tracked Turner or say what new evidence pointed to him being the alleged killer.

Both Ormsby and Hayward police Chief Diane Urban commended Detective Rob Lampkin for his efforts in solving the homicide approaching its four-year anniversary next month.

Ormsby said Lampkin never gave up working to find the man who took the life of a girl's father right before her eyes.

Turner, convicted of a drug-related offense in September 2012, has been charged with one count of felony murder, according to a criminal complaint filed in Alameda County Superior Court.

He remained incarcerated at the Santa Rita Jail on Wednesday without bail.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact police at 510-293-7034.

Contact Natalie Neysa Alund at 510-293-2469 and follow her at Twitter.com/nataliealund.