Melissa Huckaby faces new charges

May 22, 2009 6:07:05 PM PDT
The Tracy woman accused of killing Sandra Cantu faces new charges of drugging more victims. Prosecutors are filing these new charges to show a pattern of behavior. It is dangerous behavior that some believe should have been a warning of what was to come.

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Melissa Huckaby is accused of murdering Sandra Cantu, whose body was found in a suitcase near her home in Tracy. But now, there are new charges involving two other incidents.

Huckaby has appeared in court three times now and has still not entered a plea. Legal observers describe that as somewhat unusual and rare, but they say she has a good excuse -- the additional charges against her.

Just as before, when Huckaby appeared in court on Friday, she wore chains at the ankles and the waist. In less than 10 minutes, the prosecution added three more felony counts. Now, in addition to charges of raping and murdering 8-year-old Cantu, the district attorney says she poisoned or drugged two other people including an ex-boyfriend and a 7-year-old girl. Lawyers could not provide more details due to a gag order.

"The defendant put something in an innocuous item. I just want to make clear it doesn't have to be poison," said William Himmelblau, the district attorney's spokesman.

The new charge does not name that 7-year-old girl, but it matches the date of a complaint from a parent in the mobile home park who told police that Huckaby had drugged her daughter with a muscle relaxant after a visit last January. Police did not act, back then. Friday morning, residents expressed surprise that nobody saw any of this coming

"It's amazing what she was doing here and nobody knew about it. It's hard to believe that nobody knew something," said neighbor Walter Reed.

Legal experts see the new charges as a way for the prosecution to show a pattern of behavior to strengthen their case and also a possible sentence.

"You look at the individual in their entirety. What is their criminal history? Is it an individual that made one mistake or is it someone that is a danger to society over a long period of time? So, I think the prosecution, by gathering this information, putting this out there in a new complaint, is making this a lot closer to a death penalty than they were in the last appearance," said legal analyst Steven Clark.

Huckaby did not enter a plea. Her lawyer asked for three more weeks to study the new charges.

No family members spoke either before or after Friday's proceedings. Supporters of Huckaby walked out the front of the building and the family of Sandra Cantu left from a secured area in the back.

Huckaby returns to court on June 12. Between now and then, her attorney has about 1,000 pages of evidence to look through. No word, yet, if he will ask for a change of venue.

Earlier on Friday, ABC7 learned that the adult who Huckaby allegedly poisoned is Daniel Plowman, a former boyfriend of Huckaby's. On March 3rd, Plowman went to a Tracy towing yard to retrieve his vehicle. Employees thought he looked unfit to drive and called police, who arrested Plowman for being under the influence of some kind of tranquilizer.

Later, Plowman would tell police that Huckaby is the one who must have slipped him some kind of muscle relaxer. A few weeks earlier, The 7-year-old girl had returned from an afternoon in Huckaby's care in an altered state. Hospital tests found her under the influence of a tranquilizer. Back at the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park, reaction to the new developments included the possibility of conspiracy.

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