A California Sunday school teacher kidnapped, raped and murdered an 8-year-old girl and stuffed her body in a suitcase that was dumped in a pond just near her home, prosecutors alleged.
Melissa Huckaby, 28, was charged with murdering her daughter’s playmate, Sandra Cantu, in a gruesome crime that has shocked and terrified residents of Tracy, a Northern California city of about 78,000, east of San Francisco.
Huckaby, who volunteered as a Sunday school teacher at her grandfather’s Clover Road Baptist Church in Tracy, appeared in a San Joaquin County courtroom for her arraignment in a red jumpsuit and shackles. She trembled and cried as a judge read the charge: one count of murder with the special circumstances of rape with a foreign object, lewd or lascivious conduct with a child under 14 and murder in the course of a kidnapping.
The special circumstances mean Huckaby, if convicted, could face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors have said they have not decided whether to seek the death penalty.