Tracy Police Chief on Arrest of Sunday School Teacher

April 11, 2009

[with video]

(NECN/KOVR) - Sunday school teacher Melissa Huckaby, 28, was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and killing 8-year-old Sandra Cantu early Saturday morning.

Sandra Cantu had been missing since March 27th. Her body was found Monday inside a suitcase in an irrigation pond.

Authorities revealed that Huckaby was arrested at 11:55 p.m. Friday, approximately five hours after she drove herself to the local police station at the request of officers.

"She revealed enough information that we had probably cause to arrest her." said Police Sergeant Tony Sheneman. No other arrests were made at this time.

Huckaby is being held without bail at San Joaquin County Jail, and is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.

After Sandra's disappearance hundreds of volunteers and law enforcement officials turned out to search for her.

Pictures of the girl were posted all over Tracy until April 6 when farm workers draining an irrigation pond found the suitcase.

Huckaby had previously told the press that Sandra visited her home on the day of her disappearance to play with her 5-year-old daughter.

Huckaby stated, she had turned Sandra away because her daughter needed to pick up her toys and Sandra went to another home.

Huckaby went on to say, she had left her suitcase in the driveway that day, and that it was missing.

Huckaby is a granddaughter of Pastor Clifford Lawless at the Clover Road Baptist Church which was the subject of apolice search earlier this week.

Huckaby taught Sunday school at the church and lived with Lawless in the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park that was also Sandra's home.

Huckaby's family had been questioned at length during the investigation, and their home and vehicles had been searched, authorities said.

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


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