Who Can You Trust? Sunday School Teacher Charged with Rape and Murder

A Sunday school teacher, Melissa Huckaby was arrested Friday on suspicion of kidnapping and murdering Sandra Cantu. Only eight years of age, the Northern California girl’s body was found by farm workers last week stuffed into a suitcase. They were draining an irrigation pond a few miles from her home. She may even be charged with rape and molestation as well as murder.

Formal charges were filed Tuesday afternoon. Monday, San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Robert Himmelblau stated that the murder in the course of kidnaping charge against Huckaby could also include special circumstances charges, which would be those of rape with a foreign object and lewd and lascivious conduct with a child. With those added charges, Huckaby would be eligible for the death penalty or life in prison without parole. The District Attorney’s Office will probably not determine whether or not to seek the death penalty until closer to the date of the trial.

Sandra Cantu disappeared on 27 March. Police were called in and began a search. The following day, they brought in scent dogs. Despite allegations that the dogs were brought in too late, the scent should have lingered long enough to have been followed. Indeed, according to some, a bloodhound can track a scent which is days old. However, sorting out recent scents from old scents could prove problematic and inconclusive for the purposes of tracking.

Sandra Cantu was visiting her friend and playmate Madison Huckaby, aged five, when she disappeared. Huckaby lived with her mother and grandparents five doors down from where Sandra Cantu lived.

Currently, the police are reticent and silent on the exact cause of death concerning Sandra Cantu, nor are they detailing any evidence which lead them to allege sexual assault.

Tracy, CA Police have been criticized for how this case unfolded. They began the search for Sandra Cantu twenty-four hours after she had been reported missing and no Amber Alert was issued in this case. Many local residents are critical concerning the lengthy time in which it took to bring in the scent dogs. Scent dogs may have been inconclusive given how active Cantu was in the neighborhood. However the lack of cadaver dogs may be a more important issue. Some are saying that a faster response from the police may have saved Cantu’s life.

Currently, Melissa Huckaby remains in custody without bail. She is at the San Joaquin County Jail where she is being monitored by jail staff concerning her mental health. She is not being allowed visitors.

Rape, child sexual abuse and murder are relatively rare among women. According to the FBI, only seven percent of all murders are committed by women, and solo killing of children by women is incredibly rare. However, they do happen.

“It’s extremely unusual for women to be involved in abduction and murder of a child,” a Federal agent with the FBI’s Washington DC Headquarters stated. “Sometimes we see this when a woman is working with a male partner. . . but while I have not been involved directly with this investigation, from what I know of the case, so far, that circumstance is not applicable here.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation Behavioral Analysis Unit and investigators from the Crimes Against Children Unit have become involved in the case by providing on-site and telephone consultations with the local officials in Tracy.

Several of Huckaby’s relatives spoke to reporters on Sunday. One man who only identified himself as a member of the family read a statement saying that the allegations against Huckaby were out of character.

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