05/10/09. Melissa Huckaby, a pastors's daughter, arrested in the murder of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu in Tracy, Calif., is expected to enter a plea Friday to murder charges that could lead to a death sentence upon conviction.
In the nearly two weeks since Huckaby's arrest, reports have surfaced that the 28-year-old Sunday school teacher has also been connected with another child abduction at the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park, and to two arsons in Southern California.
"There are two fires that were set in 2007 and she is a person of interest in at least one of the fires, if not both," La Palma police Capt. Jim Enright told reporters this week. "Both fires were arson." No more official information was available. The court has since imposed a gag order banning cameras from the courtroom and preventing authorities across California from discussing any cases in which Huckaby is a suspect.
Evelyn Lloyd, Huckaby's roommate in La Palma, tells the Tracy Press that the fires occurred eight days apart in the summer of 2007 at a four-bedroom house they shared. Lloyd said police found a baby's bottle with gasoline, a threatening letter and newspapers stuffed in the side window of her first-story room.
Lloyd was jailed on suspicion of committing the first fire; the second fire occurred while she was behind bars. Charges against her were later dismissed, court records show.
Plea Expected on Friday
Huckaby, the granddaughter of the pastor at a church near the Tracy mobile home park, will enter a plea Friday to charges of murder with the special circumstances of rape by instrument, kidnapping and lewd and lascivious acts on a child. Those special circumstances allow prosecutors to ask a jury for the death sentence, although district attorneys don't usually decide that issue until closer to trial.
Huckaby, a neighbor of Cantu's, allegedly kidnapped and murdered the girl March 27, as she played with Huckaby's 5-year-old daughter. Huckaby allegedly stuffed Cantu's body into a suitcase that was dumped in a nearby agricultural pond, then reported the suitcase stolen.
Cantu's mother, Maria Chavez, tells Dr. Phil she was "very shocked" to learn police had arrested her neighbor – another mom – in connection with the crime. Chavez said that Huckaby's daughter "didn't come to our house; my kids went over to her house."
Posted by Paralegal SLO at 9:06 PM 0 comments
Did Alleged Killer of Sandra Cantu Abduct Another Little Girl?
Originally posted Monday April 20, 2009 06:30 PM EDT
Sandra Cantu may not have been the first young girl that accused killer Melissa Huckaby abducted at her Tracy, Calif., mobile home park.
Her hometown newspaper, the Tracy Press, reports that police there learned in January of a woman who allegedly led a 7-year-old girl from the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park to a nearby park, kept her there for four hours and gave her drugs.
Drugs in Her System
The report says that the girl's family then took her to the hospital, where doctors found benzodiazepines (a class of drugs that includes Valium and Librium) in her bloodstream. The newspaper reports that the suspect in the case drove the same type of car as Huckaby – a purple Kia Sportage – and that police have now tied that incident to Huckaby.
Tracy police Sgt. Tony Sheneman tells PEOPLE that he has heard about the report, but he cannot comment on it. He says that all police reports linked to Huckaby are now under seal.
Huckaby, a Sunday school teacher and the granddaughter of a local pastor, is due back in court April 24 to enter a plea to charges that she killed Sandra Cantu, 8, who played with Huckaby's 5-year-old daughter on March 27. Huckaby allegedly stuffed Cantu's body into a suitcase that was dumped in a nearby agricultural pond, then reported the suitcase stolen.
Huckaby is also charged with rape with a foreign object. Sheneman tells PEOPLE that before Huckaby enters her plea, the court will rule on her lawyer's request to exhume Cantu's body for a week so defense expert Dr. Terri Haddix can examine the remains and testify on the rape allegation.
"I believe and allege such an examination is extremely crucial and material to Ms. Huckaby's defense," Huckaby’s lawyer, San Joaquin County deputy public defender Sam Behar wrote in his motion.
Click to view image: 'Sandra'
Click to view image: 'Melissa'
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