28-Year-Old Mother Charged with Raping and Killing 8-Year-Old Female Neighbor

A 28-year-old mother has been charged with the murder, kidnapping, and rape of an 8-year-old girl. Melissa Huckaby was arrested last Friday in California following the discovery on April 6 of Sandra Cantu’s body in a suitcase. The piece of luggage containing her body had been thrown in a pond at a dairy farm.

Cantu was last seen on April 27 in the Tracy mobile home park where she lived. Huckaby and her 5-year-old daughter also have a home there, and Sandra and Huckaby’s daughter were playmates.

Huckaby is a Sunday school teacher. She owns the suitcase that Sandra’s body was found in and claims that someone had stolen it.

Police searched multiple locations, including the church where Huckaby taught, to find Cantu. They are also trying to find out of if there may be more victims.

Formal charges against Huckaby include one count of murder with the special circumstances of rape with a foreign object, murder in the course of kidnapping, and lewd or lascivious conduct with a child. If convicted, Huckaby could face life in prison or be put to death. Huckaby is expected to enter a plea to the criminal charges on April 24. According to KCRA 3, a Local California TV station, investigators say that Huckaby admitted to killing the 8-year-old girl but that the death was accidental.

Huckaby, who remains behind bars, has been placed on suicide watch. She has also undergone a mental health evaluation that is being presided over in the mental health court. Any mental issues would impact the criminal case against her.

The 28-year-old reportedly has suffered from depression and in recent years experienced a series of setbacks, including divorce and bankruptcy. She is also on probation for a petty theft charge that she pleaded guilty to in November 2008.

First court appearance: Tracy woman accused of murder, rape in Sandra Cantu’s death, Mercury News, April 15, 2009
Slain girl’s family express ‘shock and disbelief’ at neighbor’s arrest, CNN, April 11, 2009
California girl, 8, disappears after playing with friend, CNN, March 31, 2009
Related Web Resources:
Women of Death Row

Women and the Death Penalty

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