Judge Seals Sandra's Autopsy, Toxicology Reports (2:51 P.M)

The Record
April 24, 2009

STOCKTON A judge today ordered the reports from the autopsy and toxicology tests performed on 8-year-old Sandra Cantu to be sealed so Tracy 's Melissa Huckaby can have a fair trial on charges she murdered, kidnapped and raped the girl.

Ruling on a prosecutor's motion, San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Linda L. Lofthus said the potentially inflammatory reports could jeopardize the case for both Huckaby and prosecutors. Lofthus cited the intense media interest while making the ruling.

Huckaby, 28, is charged with murder and three special circumstances of kidnapping, rape with instrument, and lewd and lascivious acts on a child under age 14. Prosecutors haven't said if they will seek a death sentence.

"If these records were released, there's no doubt they would be disseminated before I walked out of the door," Lofthus said. "There is no doubt the public views the sexual assault of a child to be a heinous act."

Cantu disappeared March 27, and farmworkers 10 days later discovered her body stuffed in a black suitcase abandoned in an irrigation pond. Tracy Police then arrested Huckaby who made inconsistent statements in interviews with investigators and the media.

This was Huckaby's first time appearing before Lofthus. San Joaquin County Deputy Public Defender Sam Behar did not enter a plea on behalf of his client, but asked instead for a delay. Behar officially withdrew his request to exhume Sandra's body.

Huckaby's demeanor remained solemn, but she didn't cry as in her first hearing. Before today's hearing, she showed a nervous smile to Behar, who leaned toward her in a private conversation. She was shackled and wore red jailhouse clothes.

San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Thomas Testa said in court that he already gave Behar 500 pages of reports and recordings. Lofthus ordered Huckaby back in court May 22.

Read Saturday's Record for more on this story by staff writer Scott Smith.


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