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article imageFormer Sunday School Teacher in Court Over Murder of Girl, Aged 8

By Chris Dade     Aug 18, 2009 in Crime
A 28-year-old former Sunday school teacher appeared in court in Stockton, California on Monday where she was indicted on charges of kidnapping, murder and rape in relation to the death of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu.
Melissa Huckaby, who has previously denied all the charges laid against her, lived with her own 5-year-old daughter and grandparents, her grandfather is a local pastor whose church was searched shortly before his granddaughter's arrest in April, near to the home of Sandra and her family at the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park in Tracy, California.
It was on March 27 this year that Sandra Cantu first disappeared. Ten days later on April 6 her body was discovered. It had been forced in to a suitcase and the case was then put in an irrigation pond not far from where the young girl and her alleged killer lived.
On April 10 Melissa Huckaby was arrested in connection with the kidnap, rape, and murder of Sandra Cantu. It was reported at the time that in the days leading up to her arrest Huckaby had swallowed razor blades in an attempt to commit suicide.
In May further charges were filed accusing Huckaby of attempting to poison a 7-year-old girl and a 37-year-old man, named as Daniel Plowman. Mr Plowman, whose whereabouts are still unknown, was allegedly poisoned only three weeks before the death of Sandra Cantu whilst the incident involving the 7-year-old girl happened in January of this year.
ABC News says there have been claims that police have mishandled the Sandra Cantu case and the 18-year-old sister of the young girl said to have been poisoned by Huckaby earlier in the year has suggested that Sandra might not have died if police had dealt with the incident in January differently.
Despite a court order preventing anybody connected to the Huckaby case from talking about it in public there have been reports that the 28-year-old woman is a "person of interest" regarding two arson attacks that occurred in 2007 in La Palma, California. La Palma is some 350 miles away from Tracy.
Precise details of the evidence against Huckaby, who has previously denied all the charges on which she has been indicted, are unknown. As are the details of how Sandra Cantu died. But it has been confirmed that the young girl's body will not need to be removed from its mausoleum for further evidence to be obtained.
Huckaby, who CNN reports is being held in San Joaquin County Jail, faces a possible death sentence if convicted because of the special circumstances related to the rape and murder of her alleged victim.
When she appeared in court on Monday there were scratch marks on her forehead, reportedly self inflicted earlier in the day. It is not clear if those marks were an indication of a fresh suicide attempt. Reports also tell of how Huckaby could be seen crying when the charges against her were read out.
September 10 is the date of Huckaby's next appearance in court but a trial date has yet to be set.
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