Police have arrested a Sunday-school teacher in the killing of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu, and say the woman owned the suitcase that held the California girl's body.
Melissa Huckaby, 28, told the Tracy Press newspaper she reported her black rolling suitcase missing on Sunday, the day before Sandra's body was found inside it, submerged in a pond at a dairy farm.
Authorities believe Huckaby lied when she said it was stolen, Tracy, California, police Sgt. Tony Sheneman said in an early morning briefing.
Huckaby is the granddaughter of Clifford Lane Lawless, pastor of Clover Road Baptist Church, according to the newspaper.
Huckaby and her daughter lived with the pastor and his wife in the same mobile home park where Sandra lived with her family. Huckaby's daughter was friends with Sandra, Sheneman said.
Huckaby told the Tracy Press her suitcase disappeared the same day, March 27, around the same time Sandra was last seen.
"There's been a lot of speculation on the news about what happened to my suitcase," she said. "It's not my granddad's. It's mine, and someone took it."
Sheneman said authorities asked Huckaby if she would come down Friday night to be re-interviewed, and she drove herself there, arriving about 6 p.m.
During the interview, Sheneman said, "She was very relaxed for a bit, and then she became very emotional, and then she became relaxed again" before appearing resigned.
He declined to say whether Huckaby had confessed, but said "she revealed enough information that we had probable cause to arrest her."
Huckaby was booked into the San Joaquin County jail about 3:25 a.m. (6:25 a.m. ET), according to the sheriff's Web site. She faces charges of kidnapping and murder, and is set to appear in court Tuesday.
Police have had contact with Huckaby before, but she does not have a record of violence, Sheneman said. He said no other arrests are expected in Sandra's death, and gave no information on a motive.
Citing court records, the Tracy Press reported a 28-year-old Melissa Huckaby pleaded no contest January 9 to a felony charge of second-degree commercial burglary and a misdemeanor charge of property theft with a prior theft, burglary or robbery.
A criminal complaint says she was jailed in Los Angeles County on a property theft conviction in 2006 and that she attempted to steal from a store in November 2008. According to the complaint, she is on probation in San Joaquin County and is due back in court Friday.
Asked about the court records, Huckaby told the newspaper it wasn't her and that she did not know why the address and cell phone number in the court documents match her own. "I don't know what to say," she said. "That's not me."
Police believe that by the time Sandra was reported missing, the girl was already dead, Tracy Police Chief Janet Thiessen told reporters Saturday. Watch neighbors remember slain girl »
The day Sandra was last reported seen, she returned home from school, kissed her mother and left to play with a friend who lives nearby. A short time later, wearing a pink Hello Kitty T-shirt and black leggings, she left to go to another friend's home, according to a family spokeswoman. Police said the girl's clothing helped them identify her body.
Click to view image: 'b9a2780706a4-arthuckabymugshottpd.jpg'
Click to view image: '0549b1570d6d-artmissingtracypd.jpg'
|Liveleak on Facebook|