Town rocked by arrest of Sunday School teacher

Sad but true.  Does this still mean you have to be Christian to be moral?  I do not mean to make light of the death of a child, but I think Christians should take note.

Um…Happy Easter?

Town rocked by arrest of Sunday school teacher

By TERRY COLLINS, Associated Press Writer Terry Collins

TRACY, Calif. – Police and residents were shocked when the suspect in the killing of an 8-year-old girl found stuffed into a suitcase turned out to be a woman, the mother of the slain girl’s best friend.

Melissa Huckaby, a Sunday school teacher and granddaughter of a minister, was on suicide watch Saturday at the San Joaquin County Jail, where she was being held without bail on suspicion of kidnapping and killing 8-year-old Sandra Cantu.

Sandra’s body was found in one of Huckaby’s suitcases in an irrigation pond nearly a week ago, police said.

“This was an anomaly in the murder of a child,” police Sgt. Tony Sheneman said at a news conference Saturday. “Finding out that it is a woman who is responsible for Sandra’s kidnapping and murder, and then finding out it is a member of the community is another blow.”

FBI statistics show women are involved in just 7 percent of murders of any sort. Solo killings of children by women are even more unusual.

“It’s very unusual for women to be involved in an abduction and murder of a child,” said Candice DeLong, a retired FBI profiler based in San Francisco. “Sometimes we see this when the woman is working with a male partner. It does not appear to be the case this time. But this was not a sexually motivated crime.”

Sandra disappeared on March 27 and hundreds of volunteers and law enforcement officials turned out to search for her. Pictures of the girl with dark brown eyes and light brown hair were posted all over Tracy, a city of 78,000 people about 60 miles east of San Francisco. Police said they received 1,500 tips.

Huckaby, 28, had attended the second of several vigils for the slain girl, Sheneman said.

Sheneman said investigators had not determined the motive for the slaying. Police would not say where or how the girl was killed.

Police said autopsy results are not yet available, and they declined to say whether investigators believe the slaying was accidental or deliberate.

Inconsistencies in Huckaby’s story led to her arrest, Sheneman said. There are no other suspects and no other arrests are expected, he said. Her arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday.

Huckaby is a granddaughter of Pastor Clifford Lawless, whose Clover Road Baptist Church was the subject of a police search. Huckaby taught Sunday school at the church and lived with Lawless in the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park that also was Sandra’s home.

Huckaby’s uncle, John Hughes Jr. of Whittier, said his niece was from a good home, but had hit a rough patch in her life and moved in with her grandparents to get past her troubles.

“They opened their home up to her to try to get her life back on track. I think a lot of families have problems like that,” Hughes said.

Huckaby had been scheduled to appear in court on April 17 to check in with a county mental health program as part of a three-year probation sentence for a petty theft charge to which she pleaded no contest.

She was arrested late Friday, about five hours after she drove herself to the local police station at the request of officers.

“She was calm, cool and collected, then she became very emotional,” Sheneman said.

It was not immediately clear if Huckaby had hired an attorney to speak for her.

She had worked as a checker at a Food for Less grocery store in a strip mall just east of the mobile park for nearly four years, until she was fired sometime in 2004, said Matt Duncan, an assistant manager at the store now known as FoodMaxx.

“I wouldn’t have anything bad to say about her, until now,” said Duncan, who has worked at the store off and on for about 10 years. “I would’ve never suspected her to do something like this.”

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