Sunday-school teacher Melissa Huckaby has been arrested for the murder of Sandra Cantu after the 8-year-old child’s body was found in a suitcase that had been submerged in an irrigation pond near a dairy farm, reports ABC News. The suitcase reportedly belongs to Melissa Huckaby.
Police say that Melissa Huckaby, 28, lied to them when she claimed that the suitcase in which Sandra Cantu’s body was found had been stolen; Huckaby says she left the suitcase in her driveway and that it was stolen the day before Sandra Cantu went missing.
Melissa Huckaby was Sandra Cantu’s neighbor and her 5-year-old daughter was one of the murdered girl’s playmates.
Melissa Huckaby lived with her grandfather and his wife in the same mobile home park where Sandra Cantu lived with her family. Huckaby’s grandfather is Clifford Lane Lawless, who is the pastor of the Clover Road Baptist Church.
During her interview with the police, Tracy, California police Sgt. Tony Sheneman noted that Melissa Huckaby exhibited a range of emotions. At first she was calm; then she became more agitated; but by the end of the interview, she was relaxed again, according to Sheneman.
Though Sgt. Sheneman has not said whether Melissa Huckaby has confessed to the murder of Sandra Cantu, he did say that she provided enough information to be considered a suspect. Melissa Huckaby is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday.
Melissa Huckaby reportedly has a criminal record, though not a violent one. According to a criminal complaint, in 2006 Melissa Huckaby was jailed in Los Angeles County on a charge of theft. On January 9 of this year, Melissa Huckaby pleaded no contest to charges of commercial burglary and property theft.
What is shocking to this writer about the arrest of Melissa Huckaby for the murder of Sandra Cantu is that Melissa Huckaby is, well, a woman. The vast majority of murders are committed by men. Indeed, as Patricia Pearson writes in her book, When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence, violence is widely considered to be the “province of the male.”
When women do kill, it is typically in self defense; in response to having been physically abused for too long by a lover or husband, for example (there have been a number of such cases).
That Melissa Huckaby is a suspect in the murder of Sandra Cantu just doesn’t fit the mold.
Sunday School Teacher Booked in Sandra Cantu’s Murder, Sarah Netter and Laura Marquez, ABC News, April 11, 2009