Neighbor woman accused in death of girl found in suitcase

SACRAMENTO — The arrest of a Sunday school teacher Melissa Huckaby, suspected of kidnap and murder in the death of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu, ends the search for the killer of the little California girl that has gripped Tracy -- and the nation -- for more than a week, a police spokesman said Saturday.

"There is still a lot of work to be done over the next several weeks to ensure that Ms. Huckaby pays for what she has done," said Tracy Police Sgt. Tony Sheneman. "There are no other suspects in this case and we do not anticipate any other arrests."

Huckaby, 28, was arrested late Friday night on suspicion of murder and kidnapping. Detectives said she provided officers with enough information during an interview to arrest her on probable cause.

Sheneman said there were no other arrests and no other suspects.

In a morning news conference outside the Tracy mobile home park where Sandra lived, the sergeant wasn't able or wouldn't comment on questions prompted by the arrest.

Sheneman said police had located a murder scene but would not elaborate.

As for a motive, he said, "I could not even begin to theorize what her motive is."

And he couldn't say whether Sandra's death was deliberate or an accident.

Tracy Police Chief Janet Thiessen has said that the little girl was probably dead by the time she was reported missing March 27.

Huckaby, who is refusing jailhouse interviews, is being held in the San Joaquin County Jail. Her first court date is Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. and she is being held without bail.

Her arrest follows a week of intensive searching and interviewing by Tracy police and agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The little girl's death caused an outpouring of emotion in Tracy -- a city of 78,000 people about 70 miles south of Sacramento -- and worldwide.

Sheneman said Huckaby's arrest, while calming fears, gives little solace to the community and Sandra's family. "There's no joy in this. An arrest has been made and we're satisfied with that at the moment," he said.

Police said the arrest of Huckaby was partially the result of a newspaper story.

In a Tracy Press story published Friday, Huckaby said that Sandra visited her home the day of her disappearance to play with her 5-year-old daughter. However, she told Sandra that her daughter could not play because she needed to pick up her toys. The Huckaby family's home is about 75 yards, five doors down the street, from the Cantu home.

At another point, Huckaby said someone took her large, black suitcase that she had left in her driveway on March 27 -- the same day that Sandra was reported missing.

The little girl's body was found in a similar suitcase near her home on April 6 when farmworkers drained an agricultural pond. Sheneman said the suitcase was Huckaby's and that the farmworkers who discovered it, with Sandra's remains inside, have refused a reward for locating the child.

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