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Murder

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.

Police did not at the time provide details as to why Huckaby was arrested, but there is evidence to suggest that a police investigator leaked to a reporter that Huckaby was a key suspect. With their investigation blown, police arrested Huckaby after a story was published in the Tracy Press in which Huckaby claimed ownership of the suitcase. 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.

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.

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.

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

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