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Why Would a Mother Kill Sandra Cantu?

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Over the weekend, Melissa Huckaby was charged with kidnapping and murder in the death of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu. Why?

sandra cantu and killer melissa huckaby

Melissa Huckaby and her 5-year-old daughter Madison live in the same mobile home park as Sandra Cantu's family. Huckaby is the pastor's granddaughter, and she taught Sunday school at the church. By all accounts, Melissa's daughter and Sandra were close friends, and played together frequently.

Then Sandra went missing. Her body was found last Monday, stuffed into a suitcase and submerged in a pond.

Police say that suitcase belongs to Melissa Huckaby. She had originally said the suitcase was hers, but that it had been stolen. She had also said that Sandra had come to her house the day she went missing, but Huckaby would not allow her daughter to play because she wanted her daughter to pick up her toys. Inconsistencies in her stories led to her arrest. She was arrested late Friday, and faces kidnapping and murder charges.

Police say they don't have a motive ... yet. CBS News reported Sunday that police believe Sandra was killed in the church.

A family member of Melissa's spoke to CNN. "We're very shocked," she said. "It's very out of character for Melissa. We love her dearly. She's a fantastic mother, very loving. ... This is a very difficult time for us and it's very difficult to express to you right now how we're feeling."

Huckaby was raised in Orange County and graduated from Brea Olinda High School in 1999, according to the Contra Costa Times. She moved to Tracy seven or eight months ago to help her grandparents, then decided to stay and enroll her daughter in kindergarten, family members said. Her father said Huckaby's only known emotional issues stem from a divorce.

According to the FBI, it's statistically unusual for a woman to be involved in anything like this. When asked what people should learn from the fact that a woman is suspected in the slaying, Tracy police spokesman Sgt. Tony Sheneman said, "You have to be 100 percent aware of who your children are talking to."

Why do you think Melissa Huckaby might have killed Sandra Cantu?

See Also:

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109 comments so far | Post a comment now
William Sipe April 13, 2009, 11:07 PM

Stories like this really scare me. My son is only four, and he loves people so much that he tries to give everyone hugs. As much as I tell Jaden not to talk to strangers and not to hug on them, and I hear stories like this about Sandra Cantu. How do you protect your child from everyone? This woman, Huck, was someone that Sandra and her family knew. God, sometimes it makes me not want Jaden to associate with anyone outside our family.

Cat April 13, 2009, 11:22 PM

Just because someone may have borderline personality disorder, does not mean they don’t have empathy.

Either way, this woman was questioned in connection with a sexual assult of another 7-year old girl.

She possibly could have sexually molested her and didn’t want anyone to find out.

Anon April 13, 2009, 11:27 PM

Maybe she had a psychotic episode and believed God told her to. (Bi-polar disorder with psychotic features, or psychotic depression)


If there isn’t any physical evidence linking her to the case……

She is a liar, and told the story to the press for attention and to feel important…Having a suitcase stolen, and getting a note from the killer.-An unlikely story but maybe one that would get her some attention from reporters.

Odd case indeed. I am interested in the motive being revealed.

Anonymous April 13, 2009, 11:39 PM

If I was Jesus-Chrysler, I would be scared to make remarks about God like you did. The Bible does say It will wax worse and worse in the end. I believe we are at the end of this world, because things can’t get much worse than a mother killing kids. And as for the afterlife yes I am worried about it, because I don’t want to spend eternity in Hell, I would like to spend it in Heaven, but I will be prayng for you.

T.M.S April 14, 2009, 12:36 AM

I wish people would stop considering the fact she was mentally ill. Mentally unstable does not change the fact that she possibly raped and murder this poor innocent sweet little girl. Nor does it make it okay. Being crazy doesn’t justify anything. If it was a man, nobody would even care if he was crazy, in our eyes he would just be a sick perverted man who loved little girls! The last thing I would want is for this SICK PERVERTED FEMALE to get off with temporary insanity I want her to rott in prison as I would any other pedophile. Who’s to say what she’s done to her own child. And some where I read that she also drugged and molested another child after the missing of Sandra and before her arrest.This women should be looked at as any oother rapist and child molester. And I hope that eeveryone could agree. Melisa huckaby life in prison without parole. Let’s hope and pray!

T April 14, 2009, 12:36 AM

I feel she’s a sociopath (hence the no empathy) and a pedophile. They are still considering other charges; perhaps it’s a charge for the 7-year-old girl she was previously questioned about. They will need to check to see if she abused her own daughter or any others. A child rapist and killer. She will be very popular in prison. They will have to keep her by herself. Most women in prison would not do THIS and they will kill her.

Anonymous April 14, 2009, 12:49 AM


Lisa Pinkney April 14, 2009, 1:09 AM

Someone should check the divorce records and see what her husband John had to say about her. Her is a link to Orange County Superior Court Divorce case.

lorena April 14, 2009, 1:18 AM

how do you…
go about killing an innocent little girl when you have one of your own at home??
when the position that this little girl’s mother is in is one you could have been in…

how do you kidnap her, take her from her loved ones??
she trusted you, she went to your house on multiple occasions she looked up to you and respected you as an adult and the mother of her best friend

how can you hear her plead to stop, and then continue on to murder her???

you kill her and still with no remorse stuff her in a suitcase???
throw her in an irrigation pond???

how does your brain work????

you have no excuse.

your past isnt one, nothing is.

this will probably never get to you,
you dont know who i am
we’ve never met but one day you will get yours
your going to spend a very long time in jail,
maybe you wont ever regret what you’ve done but thats why theres a hell.

for people like you ,

no name April 14, 2009, 1:52 AM

i can not believe she did it. the only think that makes me wonder if she did is this story of her maybe drugging a 6 year old some time ago. But this rape?? and murder - I don’t get it. It sounds like the act of a man. It sounds like something done for the satisfaction of a man. It also sounds very physically challenging. Sandra looked like an agile and healthy girl - it could not have been so easy for a woman to overpower her in that way and then actually kill her — thats got to take some real intimidation and strength. Something I could see the pastor possessing.

I think Melissa knew too much. I think she knew her grandfather did this, perhaps by bearing witness in some way — or by circumstantial clues - and she wanted to tell where the body was without exposing her grandfather. But then she revealed too much and painted herself into a corner, and realized she either turn in her grandfather/caretaker/pastor/man she probably looked up to and depended on the most, or…take the fall and say she herself is the one responsible. I think is is also important to note that her grandmother took her daughter away the day after the killing — this could have been cause enough for Melissa not to say something her grandmother and grandfather did not want her to say.

maybe both of the grandparents are in on it.

angel April 14, 2009, 2:50 AM

i think she is really sick, imagine killing a young girl when she herself also has a daughter? the reasons are still unknown but what if she was triggered by something? like what if her own daughter, Madison quarelled with Sandra and she sided with Madison? There are a lot of possibilities. Have the authorities asked Madison? or was she jealous of the friendship between Madison and sandra? There are ifs and buts but bottomline, it takes a really sick mind to do something horrible as stuffing a girl in a suitcase and throwing her in a pond.

Lola April 14, 2009, 4:24 AM

What if.. melissa and grandpa were doing something and sandra stumbled on them in the act? that would be a great motive, and maybe grandpa threaten melissa that if she didn’t take the rap he would do the same thing to madison. Just a thought

Debbie Taylor April 14, 2009, 6:33 AM

This case just gets more frightening by the minute. Yes, Huckaby is disturbed and deranged - and as parents, I believe it is our unyielding responsibility to put ourselves in the faces of everyone our children associate with - rather than never allow our children to go to sleep overs, etc., with their friends. I’m reading things like Huckaby didn’t socialize with the neighbors, never allowed her child to play outdoors or at anyone else’s house - that she was, perhaps, anti social? Maybe a few face- to - face conversations between her and other parents in the neighborhood would have raised a few flags? Like, this lady is really strange? I don’t know - this case is so scary in the fact that she’s a woman, a mother, and a Sunday School teacher - all the signs of someone you think you can trust. My thoughts and prayers to everyone touched by this horrific tragedy.

TheT April 14, 2009, 7:06 AM

Very sad case. I know there are evil women out there too but this type of thing is rarely heard of. Things seem very strange. Was the child taken to the church or maybe coerced into going there? Maybe it was at the church because she couldn’t do anything elsewhere with her living with her Grandparents. I would think the Grandfather had something to do with it but I have heard something else had happened with this woman and another little girl. And after that she was allowed to teach Sunday school? WTH? Child molesters and murderers are not the only reason to keep up with your kids. I live in a rural town in the southeastern part of the country. A nice little middle-class neighborhood. Our son takes some razzing from the neighborhood kids at school because he doesn’t run the streets like they do. We are talking 13 yr. olds. Now as a child I was able to run around town at this age but things are different now. I know for a fact some of these kids are smoking cigarettes and drinking and one was recently expelled from school for pot. I’m not saying all kids are bad and into drugs but these kids are out there . This is the age where kids are so easily swayed. I remember peer pressure and how difficult it could be to break the status quo. Then you have parents who mostly both work now or single parents who work. The kids are often left long hours unsupervised. Then I beleive that a lot of parents feel some guilt as to not spending enough time with their kids and are much more lax when it comes to discipline. Not to mention the parents who don’t care what their kids are doing as long as their not bothering them. I don’t enjoy disciplining my son but I know he must learn that negative actions lead to consequence. Let’s not start blaming Christians for this atrocity. The monster who did this doesn’t have the right to wear that mantle. This is a parasite who disguised themself as a Christian to satisfy their own sick twisted desire. Beleive me when I say the punishment they receive here on earth will pale in comparison to what lies after. God Bless the Children

Carol April 14, 2009, 8:33 AM

Statistically, if you want to keep your child as safe as possible, never ever allow them to ride in any car - even with you driving - since vehicular death is risky any time your child gets in any car.

Also, never allow your child around any family members since statistically murders, abductions, and molestations are most likely to happen by another family member.

Almost every child molestation or abuse I’ve heard of was enacted by a father, uncle, or grandpa, or close and trusted family friend.

And yes, keep them in the house at all times, except those times when planes are falling from the sky and into houses or those times when children die accidental deaths during those times you finally collapse from the fatigue of worrying and watching.

Also, don’t allow them to go to school (school killings) or church (church killings) or outdoors at all (road rage homicides, random killings, mall shootings, etc.)

No, it’s not actually better to be alive if it means living in an overprotective box. That’s abuse itself, and hardly “living”.

Armchair Psychiatrist April 14, 2009, 8:40 AM

I agree with other posts regarding the possibility of anti-depressants contributing to a pschotic episode.
Huckaby’s behaviour in the media and police interrogation are suggesting Dissociative Identity Disorder to me.
If the allegations of rape/molestation turn out to be true, then we need to look at her family and find out who abused Huckaby as a child.

Palin 2012 April 14, 2009, 10:10 AM

Women commit murder all the time.
Read about Susan Smith here.

DeeDee April 14, 2009, 10:29 AM

Now they’re saying she may have been raped with a foreign object. If this is true, this woman is a pedofile and her daughter needs to be examined for evidence of sexual abuse. Probably the entire Sunday School class. I’d check into the Pastor’s background too. Lots of pedofiles were abused themselves when they were young. How many times do you hear of preachers, priests, youth ministers, etc. accused of abuse. Seems like churches are filled with perverts.

Liz April 14, 2009, 10:31 AM

Um…she hasn’t been convicted of anything yet. The fact that women almost NEVER commit this kind of crime should be enough for us to wait until more information comes out.

Jeff April 14, 2009, 10:33 AM

In my opinion this church does bear some responsibility here - those in charge should have done some background checks on this person before allowing her to hold any semblance of authority.

On the other hand, those who say that this says something about religion in general are being pretty superficial in my opinion - of course the wolf is always looking for a way to stay close to the sheep - is it really your position that if any person who “goes” to church commits evil acts, then the whole thing is worthless?

We insist on background checks for school teachers for instance, and we need the same thing for coaches, sunday school teachers, etc. Don’t wait for somebody else to ask…

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