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Teacher to be Arraigned in Sandra Cantu Murder on Tuesday

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AOL: Police and residents here said they were shocked when the suspect in the killing of a young girl turned out to be a woman, the mother of the slain girl's best friend.

Melissa Huckaby, a 28-year-old Sunday School teacher, was on suicide watch Saturday at the San Joaquin County Jail on suspicion of kidnapping and killing 8-year-old Sandra Cantu. The girl's body was found in one of Huckaby's suitcases in an irrigation pond nearly a week ago, police said.

"This was an anomaly in the murder of a child," police Sgt. Tony Sheneman said at a news conference Saturday. "Finding out that it is a woman who is responsible for Sandra's kidnapping and murder, and then finding out it is a member of the community is another blow."

FBI statistics show women are involved in just 7 percent of murders of any sort. Solo killings of children by women are even more unusual.

"A review of data from the 2007 Uniform Crime Report confirms that the arrest of Melissa Huckaby in the Sandra Cantu murder investigation is uncommon," said FBI spokesman Steve Dupre in Sacramento.

Sandra disappeared on March 27 and hundreds of volunteers and law enforcement officials turned out to search for her. Pictures of the girl with dark brown eyes and light brown hair were posted all over Tracy, a city of 78,000 people about 60 miles east of San Francisco. Police said they received 1,500 tips in the hunt for Sandra and her killer.

"It's very unusual for women to be involved in an abduction and murder of a child," said Candice DeLong, a retired FBI profiler based in San Francisco. "Sometimes we see this when the woman is working with a male partner. It does not appear to be the case this time. But this was not a sexually motivated crime."

Huckaby attended the second of several vigils for the slain girl, Sheneman said.
On April 6, farmworkers draining an irrigation pond found the suitcase containing the child's body.

Sheneman said investigators have no motive for the slaying, which drew national attention. Police declined to say where or how the girl was allegedly killed.

Inconsistencies in Huckaby's story led to her arrest, Sheneman said.

There are no other suspects and no other arrests are expected, he said.
Huckaby is a granddaughter of Pastor Clifford Lawless, whose Clover Road Baptist Church was the subject of a police search. Huckaby taught Sunday school at the church and lived with Lawless in the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park that also was Sandra's home.

Huckaby's uncle, John Hughes Jr. of Whittier, said his niece was from a good home, but had hit a rough patch in her life and moved in with her grandparents in Tracy to get past her troubles.

"They opened their home up to her to try to get her life back on track. I think a lot of families have problems like that," Hughes said.

Huckaby was scheduled to appear in court on April 17 to check in with a county mental health program as part of a three-year probation sentence for a petty theft charge to which she pleaded no contest.

She was arrested about five hours after she drove herself to the local police station at the request of officers. She is being held without bail for an arraignment Tuesday.

"She was calm, cool and collected, then she became very emotional," Sheneman said.

The slain girl's family was as puzzled as police.

"Why?" wondered her uncle, Joe Chavez, shaking his head. He said Huckaby should face the death penalty if convicted.

It was not immediately clear if Huckaby had hired an attorney.

Police said autopsy results are not yet available, and they declined to say whether
investigators believe the slaying was accidental or deliberate.

She had worked as a checker at a Food for Less grocery store in a strip mall just east of the mobile park for nearly four years, until she was fired sometime in 2004, said Matt Duncan, an assistant manager at the store now known as FoodMaxx.

"I wouldn't have anything bad to say about her, until now," said Duncan, who has worked at the store off-and-on for about 10 years. "I would've never suspected her to do something like this."

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13 comments so far | Post a comment now
ashley April 12, 2009, 11:42 AM

How truly sad for little Sandra’s family and for the murderer’s family. I wonder what would drive this woman to do this to that beautiful little baby. I am glad they found her though. I hope she gets the death penalty.

Whatever April 12, 2009, 2:23 PM

What the hell?

Let Her April 12, 2009, 2:28 PM

Why are they spending money to keep this monster on suicide watch? Leave her alone and let her do it!

Anonymous April 12, 2009, 3:07 PM

I have seen so much in the news lately about child abuse, abduction, and murder of so many children. After seeing this on the news it has made me realize that I do believe in the death penalty. Why should murders of such defenseless children have the right to live.

Kathryn Schutz April 12, 2009, 3:13 PM

This could be as simple as an accidental backing over the child. The police claim they know where the child died. That will tell us a lot. How about prayer for both families and all the police and volunteers who have prayed and searched for the child. If the press tries something positive instead of trying for the most lurid possible, maybe we can make some progress here. Facts, please.

Linda April 12, 2009, 3:33 PM

The world wants to know why????
Why would a woman kill anothers child?
Where was her child??

RMX April 12, 2009, 6:08 PM

Times are changing folks.After Casey Anthony and Andrea Yates,I am not at all surprised that a woman (or to keep feminists happy,womyn) had the power to kill a child.In the past this type of news was swept under the rug and quickly forgotten.Casey did us the favor of bring the reality to the spotlight.
We are going to have to rethink of preconceptions of people due to their gender and race and begin to see us for what we are INDIVIDUALS.
As a “stupid” white male with depression at 27,I have yet to do anything as immature as this woman (fems. womyn), Casey Marie Anthony or Andrea Yates.

top model April 12, 2009, 6:23 PM

wow!! its too sad to see what this world is comming to..poor innocent child..what could go through someones head to make them want to hurt/kill a child that sickens me to think of how much fear she went prayers are with the family and little sandra..

Lisa April 12, 2009, 7:31 PM

Hurting a child is the most UNFORGIVABLE and COWARDLY thing anyone can do! HOW do go from being a seemingly normal parent, to being a COLD -BLOODED KILLER?! It seems we see and hear about murdered children daily. I find myself praying for the innocent victims of a world gone mad!!!!!

gurl April 12, 2009, 9:10 PM

she wasn’t a sunday school teacher, that is another one of her lies. Look on, they have a ton of info on her there. Also, her myspace is being investigated by the FBI, her mysapce is “cinderella888” even though it should be cinderella666. she is listed under Melissa Lawless.

disapointed April 12, 2009, 9:49 PM

you know what WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE NOW A DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
seriously what would drive her to, not only to kill a little girl but her little’s best firend :(

Anonymous April 12, 2009, 11:33 PM

I would also like to point out that this woman is not a teacher.

shortgolf4 April 13, 2009, 2:17 AM

Absolutely NOT a teacher This was an unemployed single mom. Call it like it is - nothing wrong with it but do not call her a teacher.

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