A Woman Suspect in the Sandra Cantu Murder Case

Eight-year-old Sandra Cantu, who disappeared March 27, was found murdered in a black suitcase April 7 after a long, painful search.  Her playmate's mother, Melissa Huckaby, is being held in connection with her kidnapping and murder (Courtesy: ABC News)

Eight-year-old Sandra Cantu, who disappeared March 27, was found murdered in a black suitcase April 7 after a long, painful search. Her playmate's mother, Melissa Huckaby, is being held in connection with her kidnapping and murder (Courtesy: ABC News)

I KNOW this revelation is freaking people out in California. They expected it was going to be a man. A skulking drifter hiding at corners, or some creep driving around in a van looking for a victim. Some, including the suspect’s Baptist preacher family, are still thinking that it could only be a man. But no. Sandra Cantu was kidnapped and murdered by the woman next door. Psychologists were at a loss to find a recent precedent of a woman committing such a crime.

Only 5 percent of pedophiles in America who abuse girls are female, said David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center, and the victims are almost always older than Sandra was.

“There are cases of a woman acting alone, but more frequently you get a situation where it’s a woman working in cahoots with a guy,” he said. “What’s being described here is very rare.”

What I decided to do before I even started to write about this sad case was to first avoid the Faux Noise outlets in Oaktown and Sacramento, whose write-ups and video sometimes lean to the lurid. When it comes to crime or politics, Faux’s coverage is wall-to-wall, driving it home just like in the Chandra Levy disappearance. I just didn’t want to have any bad dreams.

The suspect, Melissa Huckaby, 28, a Sunday School teacher and the single mother of a five-year-old girl, of whom it was said by one observer that Huckaby never allowed outside to play with the other children, has suffered numerous personal and financial setbacks. She’s fought depression, divorce, and bankruptcy; she’s been picked up for petty theft. Prior to being arrested in Sandra’s death, she was suspected, but never charged, in the molestation of another 7-year-old girl. Sandra’s body was found April 7 stuffed in a large suitcase in an irrigation pond that police found had belonged to Huckaby after she reported it missing on Friday. The farm workers who found the black suitcase bobbing in the water as it was being drained refused the reward money. Spanish-speaking radio stations in the county had been saturating the Latino community with appeals for help in the girl’s disappearance.

Huckaby, who is on suicide watch in the San Joaquin County Jail, and is being examined for her mental fitness, wept during her arraignment April 14 in Stockton. Unlike stoics like Florida’s Casey Anthony, Huckaby looked a wreck. She did not enter a plea. Sandra, who disappeared March 27, was found to have been raped with a foreign object during her ordeal, possibly in the Clover Road Baptist Church, next door to the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park where she lived. Both the park and the church are owned by Huckaby’s grandfather, the Reverend Clifford Lawless. When this charge against Huckaby was read in the courtroom, Sandra’s aunt, uncle and father as well as the suspect’s relatives were seen to be weeping and gasping in disbelief. Sandra’s mother is still under sedation after learning what had occurred to her daughter, and did not attend the arraignment.

It’s not uncommon for women to be involved in murder; but if a woman is found to be complicit in the murder and molestation of a small child, it is doubly horrifying, if not rare. Women are supposed to be gentle maternal protectors, not torturing, molesting murderers. Melissa Huckaby seems to me to be mentally unbalanced. If she was under a therapist’s care and given the wrong medication, would that have made her snap? That made me fear for her daughter’s well-being. Sandra was the only child she allowed to play with her little girl.

After I saw some of the news videos, something else hit me, too: there might be a possibility that she herself might have been molested by a close family member. It’s not unlikely, and it might explain her instability, but something like that would have to be confirmed during the investigation and trial. However, special circumstances are being asked in this case, meaning that Huckaby may face the death penalty.

All this doesn’t explain away the fact that a child, Sandra Cantu, is dead, possibly at the hands of a woman old enough to be her mother, and the granddaughter of her family’s landlord; a woman that she and her relatives knew and trusted. I know this sends shivers up and down the spines of parents all over California and the country. It means that nothing and nobody can be taken for granted or trusted with your own; not your play cousins, not your mother, not your stepfather, not your friend’s older brother or your aunt’s friend, not your grandfather. Nobody.

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~ by blksista on April 15, 2009.

3 Responses to “A Woman Suspect in the Sandra Cantu Murder Case”

  1. This is b.s. if this were a MAN particularly a black man I seriously doubt the ‘mentally ill’ crap mantras would be flowing so freely!! The SAME people s-t-i-l-l whining about O.J. can work up enough ‘outrage’ over the murder of a CHILD WTF?!! That goes triple for Casey Anthony and Marni Lang if it’s a straight,young,somewhat attractive white female the excuses come flying out of the woodwork what a crock! I feel NO sympathy whatsoever for this lowlife in fact the only people I feel sorry for are her daughter and the little girl she’s murdered sorry America hypocrisy and selective outrage won’t cut it this time.


    • I don’t have sympathy for this woman or for Casey Anthony, although I certainly agree with you that if had been a black man, they would be calling for the death penalty forthwith.

      I wouldn’t be surprised that if the authorities found out that if she had a male accomplice, it would be her father or her grandfather…boyfriends aren’t even in this mix.


  2. This story just creeps me out. That it’s a woman, you’re right – scares folks to pieces.


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