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Monday, April 13, 2009

Bible School Teacher arrested after body Sandra Cantu, 8, is found in her suitcase

April 12, 2009
Chris Ayers Los Angeles

A Sunday school teacher in California is being held after the body of one of her eight-year-old students was found in a suitcase dumped in a pond.

Melissa Huckaby, 28, was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and murder when detectives became suspicious about inconsistencies in her story.
It was later discovered that the suitcase from the pond belonged to her.

It is thought that the victim, Sandra Cantu, was friends with Ms Huckaby’s five-year-old daughter, and was on her way to a play when she disappeared.

Detectives have not speculated about any motive for the crime, nor have they said where or how the girl was killed.
Results of a post mortem examination, which could reveal whether the child’s death was accidental or deliberate, have not yet been published.

Sandra disappeared on March 27...Ms Huckaby, a private, softly spoken single mother who declared bankruptcy a few years ago and was enrolled in a mental health programme as part of a three-year probation sentence for petty theft, attended one of the vigils for the missing girl.

She later told a local newspaper that the suitcase in which Sandra’s body was found had been stolen from outside her home.

According to FBI statistics, women are involved in only 7 per cent of murders of any sort. Solo killings of children by women are even more unusual.

Ms Huckaby was arrested on Friday after she drove to a police station at the request of detectives. Sergeant Tony Sheneman said: “She was calm, cool and collected, then she became very emotional.”

Ms Huckaby is a granddaughter of Pastor Clifford Lawless, 77 – a former member of the Republican Central Committee – who preaches at the Clover Road Baptist Church.
Ms Huckaby taught at the church Sunday school and lived with Pastor Lawless and his wife in the well-kept Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park, a few doors from the dead girl’s parents.

The suspect’s uncle, John Hughes, said that his niece was from a good home but had hit a rough patch in her life and had moved in with her grandparents. “They opened their home up to her to try to get her life back on track,” he said. “I think a lot of families have problems like that.”

Ms Huckaby worked as a cashier at a grocery shop until she was dismissed in 2004.
Matt Duncan, an assistant manager at the store, said: “I wouldn’t have anything bad to say about her, until now. I would have never suspected her to do something like this.”

Ms Huckaby was on suicide watch yesterday at the San Joaquin County Jail. Detectives say that there are no other suspects in the killing and that no other arrests are expected. Her arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday.

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