On March 27, 2009, eight-year old Sandra Cantu disappeared in Tracy, California, and was never seen alive again. She was skipping on the street in a trailer park toward her home, wearing a pink 'Hello Kitty' shirt and black leggings. Her mother, Maria Chavez began to panic when she realized that Sandra hadn't come home yet for dinner. Sandra always helped her mother prepare dinner. She called the police, and the community quickly began searching for her together with the police.
A video later publicly aired shows that something caught Sandra's eye, causing her to look over in the direction of what was later known as Melissa Huckaby's residence. She was never seen on video, or alive again.
Huckaby reported her suitcase stolen to the trailer park manager, stating it was stolen from out in front of her trailer.
Sunday-school teacher and single mother, Melissa Huckaby was charged, convicted and sentenced in her murder in the San Joaquin County in California. She was diagnosed with manic depression and schizophrenia. A year prior to Sandra's murder, Huckaby was sent per court order to a psychiatrist for stealing from a Target store. Huckaby pled guilty to avoid the death penalty.
Huckaby stated that Sandra died without suffering and that she was not raped, though the autopsy report shows otherwise. The autopsy instead, showed Sandra was sexually assaulted with a foreign object, with prescription drugs and alcohol forced into her system. Sandra had been strangled to death with a torn piece of cloth that had been knotted into a noose. The cause of death was listed as 'homicidal asphyxiation'.
Sandra was then put in a black Eddie Bauer suitcase owned by Huckaby, and thrown in an irrigation pond.
Sandra's body was recovered April 6, 2009. No one would have suspected the killer would be a woman. It goes to show that everyone should keep an open mind when a child is missing.
Last video footage of Sandra walking home.
Missing Persons Poster at the time of disappearance
Never Forgotten. Rest in Peace dear Sandra.
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The Daily Beast