A suitcase discovered by farmworkers at about 10 a.m. yesterday contained the body of missing Sandra Cantu. Her remains were found in an area previously searched. Farmworkers were draining apond to water a field at a dairy farm on Bacchetti Road when the container was discovered. An autopsy is schedule for this morning.
(CNN) — Authorities found the body of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu in a suitcase in a dairy-farm pond near her California home on Monday.
Sandra Cantu, 8, disappeared on March 27. Her body was found at a dairy-farm pond near her Calilfornia home.
The girl had been missing since March 27 from her home in Tracy, California. Police did not identify a suspect.
News of the girl’s death devastated her family, Tracy police spokesman Tony Sheneman said.
“They have just experienced the unimaginable,” Sheneman said.
Police have not identified any suspects in the girl’s disappearance, but they have searched several homes in connection with two men who live in the mobile home park.Authorities have also towed four cars from the mobile home park which are being examined by a team of investigators from the Tracy Police Department and the FBI.
Tracy Press: Update 1 a.m. Tuesday: Hunt for a killer begins in earnest
A caravan of FBI agents pulled into the mobile home park just before 10:30 p.m. Monday, though no announcements of an arrest was made. At about 11:45 p.m., agents pulled up to search the Clover Road Baptist Church Missionary Independent at 1100 W. Clover Road.
The search brings to five the number of homes that have been searched in the mobile home park, and at least four cars have been towed from there since search warrants were first obtained March 30, police said.
Three in the park have so far been tied to the investigation. Frank Wohler is a 60-year-old martial arts instructor who said he kissed Sandra on the lips at the park’s swimming pool two years ago. Christian Sinclair, 49, was arrested March 30 for interfering with police as they searched his home. And on Friday, David Slayter, 44, got in a car with police for an interview as they searched his home, though police made a point to say he was neither detained nor arrested.
“We will determine the person or persons responsible for this reprehensible act, and we will bring them to justice,” Thiessen said.
Update 04-08-09: Town mourns its lost child as police look for clues
The pastor of the Clover Road Baptist Church, 77-year-old Clifford Lane Lawless, is not a suspect according to Tracy police spokesman Sgt. Tony Sheneman in this Tracy Press article.
Lawless, a pastor of the church since 1981, has no criminal history and no civil lawsuits against him in San Joaquin County, court records show. The only property he owns in San Joaquin County is his mobile home.
But the Clover Road Baptist Church seems as physically isolated from the rest of the city, one of the last buildings on a dead-end street, as it seems culturally set apart from other churches in town.
Several Tracy pastors said they don’t know that much about Lawless; he doesn’t join the 15 or 20 other pastors in town for Thursday prayer breakfasts.
Tim Heinrich of the Crossroads Baptist Church said Lawless declines to network with fellow pastors in town. Other pastors said the church has few events and focuses on church history because it disagrees with some of the tenets of others churches.
No one in the neighborhood surrounding Orchard Estates said they attend the Baptist church — surrounded now by yellow crime-scene tape. About a dozen neighbors said they don’t know anyone who does and that it has a tiny congregation.
Folks from a Jehovah’s Witness church across the street from Clover Road Baptist said they’ve never talked to anyone from the congregation. Pastors, members and elders of a handful of other churches in northern Tracy said the same thing.
According to ABC News:
“It’s not as big a mystery as it was,” before, said Tracy, Calif., police Sgt. Tony Sheneman to ABCNews.com, “and we believe we’re getting significantly closer.”
“We’re hopeful that we will have something in the next couple of days,” he said.
According to FOX NEWS, Tracy Police Sgt. Tony Sheneman told reporters today that investigators haven’t recovered the instrument used to murder Sandra Cantu, but said her death is being classified as a homicide.
CBS News is reporting today, Thursday, the Tracy Police are examining an envelope left at the makeshift memorial for Sandra. There were also gloves found in the crawl space of the church being evaluated.
TRACY, Calif. (CBS13/AP) ―
A note left outside the mobile home park where 8-year-old Sandra Cantu lived and was last seen is being investigated by Tracy Police. The outside of the note read “From Sandra, To My Killer”, was left at the site of a former memorial for Sandra early this morning after workers had cleared away the hundreds of notes, balloons and stuffed animals left to remember Sandra.
At about 8:30am, a crime scene van arrived at the mobile home park to collect the note. Tracy police Sgt. Sheneman said a crime lab is examining the note, but he said he did not think it was related to Sandra’s death.
Update 04-10-09: Public service set for next week for Sandra Cantu
TRACY, Calif.—Members of the public will be able to attend a memorial for the eight-year-old Tracy girl who was found dead Monday after disappearing from her home.
Tracy police say the family of Sandra Cantu has set a public service for Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at Tracy’s Merrill F. West High School.
The service will be held in the school’s gym, which holds about 2,500 people. Overflow seating will be available in the school’s cafeteria.
Police in Tracy have dismissed earlier reports that a “significant arrest” in connection with the Sandra Cantu murder investigation would be made today. A Sunday school teacher whose daughter Sandra went to visit the day she disappeared and who is familiar with the area the suitcase was found in said her suitcase was stolen.
TRACY – A Sunday school teacher who lives at the mobile home park where 8-year-old Sandra Cantu went missing from claims someone stole her black, waterproof rolling suitcase the same day the Tracy girl disappeared.
Twenty-eight-year-old Melissa Huckaby told the Tracy Press in a phone interview today that she had left the black suitcase near her Kia SUV, reportedly towed by police recently, the day she was heading to her grandfather’s church, the Clover Road Baptist Church, where she teaches Sunday school.
Update 04-11-09: Sunday School Teacher Arrested in Murder of 8-Year-Old Sandra Cantu
A Sunday school teacher, who was one of the last people to see 8-year-old Sandra Cantu alive, was arrested early Saturday on suspicion of kidnapping and killing the young girl, FOX San Francisco affiliate KTVU reported.
Melissa Huckaby, 28, was taken into custody at 1 a.m. Saturday after voluntarily going to police for questioning nearly five hours earlier
Update 04-13-09: Prosecutors Consider Rape Claim in Slaying of Sandra Cantu
California prosecutors say they are considering rape and molestation allegations against the woman suspected of killing 8-year-old Sandra Cantu and stuffing her body into a suitcase.
San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Robert Himmelblau told The Associated Press today that a homicide charge against Melissa Huckaby, 28, could also include the special circumstances of rape with a foreign object, lewd and lascivious conduct with a child and murder in the course of a kidnapping.
Update 04-17-09 On Good Morning America, GMA, Melissa Huckaby’s ex-husband had this to say about her. He is allegedly seeking custody of their daughter. It was discussed whether he feared for his daughter’s safety prior to the murder of Sandra.
“I do believe the emotional issues came into play quite often in her lifetime,” Johnny Huckaby told “Good Morning America’s” Chris Cuomo in an exclusive interview.
“She did suffer from depression. She did have issues with … her self-persona, who she saw herself as,” Huckaby, 26, told “GMA.”
However, in the interview he also expressed shock and disbelief at her involvement.
“My initial reaction was shock and complete disbelief,” Johnny Huckaby said. “It’s not something you want to think anyone possibly [is capable] of doing — let alone somebody that you knew. And that’s a mother of your child.”
Update 04-20-09: Huckaby tied to January missing girl report
Melissa Chantel Huckaby, 28, is tied to a report that someone in January took a 7-year-old girl to a park for four hours and brought her back high on muscle relaxers.
The incident was reported on January 17 by a family in the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park. Huckaby lived in the same complex, also where 8-year-old Sandra Cantu lived before police found her dead body on April 10. Police arrested Huckaby four days later on suspicion on kidnapping, raping and killing Sandra.
The January report alleges that someone took a 45-pound blue-eyed dark-haired girl to a park. The woman and the child were gone for four hours, from about 1:30 to after 5 p.m., according to the police log. The woman who took the girl drove a purple Kia Sportage, according to the report.
Update 04-23-09: Missing girl’s mother pointed finger at Huckaby early
The mother of a girl who went missing in January told police to check out Melissa Huckaby immediately after she heard that 8-year-old neighbor girl Sandra Cantu disappeared late last month.
Lora Polk, 41, came back from work on Jan. 17 to find her 7-year-old daughter gone. Huckaby, 28, took her — along with her own 5-year-old daughter — without permission from the family, Polk said this morning in an interview at the Tracy Press. Polk called police to report the missing girl. Hours later, she took her to the hospital, where doctors say they found muscle relaxers coursing through her 45-pound body.
Missing child in Tracy California
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