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Sandra Cantu
Born Sandra Renee Cantu
March 8, 2001(2001-03-08)
Tracy, California, United States
Died c. March 27, 2009(2009-03-27) (aged 8)[1]
Tracy, California, United States
Cause of death Homicide
Body discovered In suitcase in pond
Resting place Tracy, California
Home town Tracy, California
Height 4'0" (122 cm)
Weight 45 lbs (20 kg)

The Sandra Cantu homicide occurred on or about March 27, 2009, in Tracy, California.[1] Sandra Cantu was an 8-year-old girl who was reported missing on March 27, 2009, wearing a pink Hello Kitty t-shirt and black leggings.[2] On April 6, 2009, local authorities reported farm workers found a suitcase in an irrigation pond that contained the body of the missing child.

On April 10, 2009, police arrested 28-year-old Melissa Huckaby and charged her with the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Cantu. The black Eddie Bauer suitcase that contained the body of Cantu belonged to Huckaby, who reported to have left it in her driveway on the day Cantu went missing.[1] Police did not at the time provide details as to why Huckaby was arrested, but she was arrested hours after a story written by a 22-year-old reporter Jennifer Wadsworth was published in the Tracy Press in which Huckaby claimed ownership of the suitcase.[3] She was placed under arrest after interrogation on April 10. Reports after her arrest indicated that in the days prior, Huckaby attempted suicide by swallowing knife blades; Huckaby reportedly denied this.[4]

It has been reported that police in Tracy believe she murdered Cantu in the church where she worked as a Sunday school teacher for five children, and where her grandfather served as a minister.[5] According to the pathologist's report, Sandra had been strangled with a torn piece of cloth that had been knotted into "a noose." The cause of death was determined to be "homicidal asphyxiation." Some of Sandra's injuries were also consistent with a rolling pin with a bent handle and bloody smudge found inside the church. The pathology report revealed that the smudge on the rolling pin matched Sandra's blood. The report also showed she was sexually assaulted with the object. [6]

Huckaby was indicted by a grand jury on charges of kidnapping, murder, and rape in the death of Cantu.[7] The prosecution subsequently announced that the death penalty would be sought at trial.[8] However, Huckaby pled guilty to the murder on May 10, 2010,[9] sparing her from a possible death sentence. All other charges were dropped as part of the plea deal.[10] On June 14, 2010 Huckaby was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the crime. [11][12]

Melissa Huckaby

Melissa Huckaby
Born February 23, 1981 (1981-02-23) (age 40)
California, U.S.
Charge(s) First degree murder, et al.
Penalty Life without parole
Status Incarcerated in San Joaquin County jail
Occupation Sunday School teacher

Melissa Huckaby (born February 23, 1981 in Orange County,[13] California) is the American Sunday School teacher who pleaded guilty to the murder of Sandra Cantu. Huckaby is the granddaughter of Pastor Clifford Lawless of Clover Road Baptist Church, in Tracy, California. Huckaby lived before her arrest at the same mobile home park as Cantu, and she is the mother of a 5-year-old daughter, a close friend with whom Cantu played.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Crying Mom Charged With Cantu Murder, Rape
  2. Missing Calif. 8-year-old found dead –
  3. Big story drops into a struggling paper's lap
  4. Vazquez, Joe (2009-04-15). "Huckaby Swallowed Knife Blades Before Arrest". Retrieved 2009-05-25.[dead link]
  5. Sources: Cantu Was Murdered In Church
  6. Melissa Huckaby Used Noose to Kill 8-Year-old Sandra Cantu
  7. August 18, 2009 Former Sunday school teacher indicted in girl's death
  8. "Death Penalty Sought for Sunday School Teacher Charged in Girl's Brutal Murder". Fox News. September 10, 2009.,2933,549080,00.html?test=latestnews.
  9. Kazmi, Sophia (2010-05-10). "Melissa Huckaby pleads guilty to killing Sandra Cantu in Tracy case". Mercury News. Retrieved 2010-05-10.
  10. "Huckaby pleads guilty for Cantu murder". The Record. 2010-05-10. Retrieved 2010-05-10.
  11. Keys, Matthew (2010-05-10). "Melissa Huckaby Pleads Guilty To Kidnapping, Murder Of Sandra Cantu". FOX40 News.,0,7232594.story. Retrieved 2010-05-10.
  12. "Guilty plea in death of 8-year-old". CNN. May 10, 2010.

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