Sunday school teacher arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and murder

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

This map shows the incorporated and unincorporated areas in San Joaquin County, California, highlighting Tracy in red.
Image: commons:User:Arkyan.

Sunday school teacher Melissa Huckaby, of Tracy, California, was arrested just before midnight Friday night on suspicion of kidnapping and killing an 8-year-old girl.

Tracy Police Chief Janet Thiessen said, "Ms. Huckaby has been arrested and will be booked at the San Joaquin County Jail for kidnapping and murder." Tracy Police Police Sargent Tony Sheneman added, "She revealed enough information that we had probable cause to arrest her for both kidnapping and murder."

Huckaby voluntarily submitted herself to questioning Friday night at the Tracy police station, and was arrested less than six hours later. She now resides in the San Joaquin County Jail without bond, awaiting an arraignment hearing on Tuesday.

On April 6, the body of Sandra Cantu was discovered stuffed inside the 28-year-old's suitcase at the bottom of a pond a few miles away from her home. The two were neighbors in the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park and Huckaby's own 5-year-old daughter often played with Cantu. Autopsy results are still pending.

Huckaby admitted in a published interview that Cantu had visited her home on the day the girl went missing. She also said that her suitcase was stolen in her driveway before the April 6 discovery. However, police say Huckaby gave four different accounts of what happened the day before Cantu went missing to four different sources.

Huckaby was due in court on April 17 to check in with officials at a mental health program in the county. This treatment was ordered as a part of her 3-year probation sentence for a prior petty theft charge in November 2006.

No word on a possible motive in this case. Tracy Police Sargent Tony Sheneman said, "I couldn't even begin to theorize what her motive is."

There are no other suspects in the case and Sheneman does not expect any further arrests.