Suspect's family shocked in Cantu case

April 12, 2009 7:17:25 PM PDT
The family of the woman arrested in Sandra Cantu's murder is coming forward with their side of the story.

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They describe the suspect, Melissa Huckaby, as incapable of kidnapping and killing the 8-year-old Tracy girl. Huckaby was arrested late Friday night, four days after Cantu's body was pulled from a drainage ditch.

There were more reporters than congregants at the church were Melissa Huckaby was a Sunday school teacher. They began their Easter morning service with a prayer for Sandra Cantu.

Easter Sunday services went on as planned at the Clover Road Baptist Church, even as reports have surfaced that 8-year-old Sandra Cantu may have been killed inside by the preacher's daughter.

"We know that the church property has been the focus of some of the investigation and we are distressed at the possibility that such a tragedy might have happened in a place of worship," said Melisa Huckaby's uncle Brett Lawless.

But Tracy police have not released details about where or how Sandra was killed.

Their suspect, Melissa Huckaby remains in jail on suicide watch. The 28-year-old lives with her grandparents in the same mobile home park where Sandra lived.

She taught Sunday school at the church just down the road.

On Sunday, family members were in disbelief over allegations that she killed her own daughter's playmate and then stuffed her body in a suitcase.

"Do you think she's capable of what the police accuse her of doing?

No," said Melissa Huckaby's father Brian Huckaby

Huckaby said the single mother has suffered from depression, but that she is an excellent mother who loves children.

"She was always very gentle. And very kind and compassionate to children and senior citizens," said Huckaby.

But police say Melissa Huckaby admitted she owned the suitcase Sandra's body was found in, and they believe she acted alone.

"Her life was all wrapped around her daughter and never had any involvement with any men dating or anything of that nature," said Huckaby.

Sandra's family remains grief stricken and angry.

"I just want to go over there and beat the crap out of those people. But you know what? I have to restrain myself and hold myself back and let the law do its job," said Sandra Cantu's uncle Joe Chavez.

Pastor Lane Lawless says his family also grieves over the prospect that his own granddaughter might be Sandra's killer.

"I'll just pray about it and I'll pray for them. They lost a daughter and perhaps I lost a granddaughter," said Lawless.

Melissa Huckaby will make her first court appearance this week at an arraignment that will take place on Tuesday.

The memorial service for Sandra Cantu will take place on Thursday in Tracy.

Public Grieving Place:
Fry Memorial Chapel
550 South Central Avenue
Tracy, CA
Hours: 10-4 on Saturday, Sunday and Monday

Public Service for Sandra Cantu:
Thursday, April 16, 2009
1 p.m. - People are asked to arrive early since there will be limited parking
Merrill F. West High School
1775 West Lowell Avenue
Tracy, CA

The reward for information leading to an arrest in Sandra's case has risen to over $30,000.

Anyone with information is urged to call the Tracy Police at: 1-209-831-6TIP

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