April 12th, 2009 09:54 EST
Sunday School Teacher Suspected of Eight-Year-Old's Murder
A Sunday school teacher from Tracy, California, was arrested as the prime suspect in the kidnapping and subsequent murder of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu, who was a student in the teacher`s class.
Melissa Huckaby was arrested at 11:55 p.m. on Friday, after being interrogated by police for five hours over the girl.
Tracy Police Sergeant Tony Sheneman oversaw the school teacher`s booking.
Sheneman said: "She gave enough information to us during the course of the interview that probable cause was there to arrest her."
The girl was reported missing on Friday, March 27th, when she didn`t come home after school. Volunteers and authorities conducted a search in and around Tracy, a city approximately 60 miles east of San Francisco, for over a week and didn`t come up with any leads as to the whereabouts of the girl.
As the search lasted into the next week, law enforcement officials posted photos of the girl in Tracy hoping someone had seen the girl recently. On April 6th, the search was called off when farmhands discovered a suitcase containing the missing girl while they were draining a local irrigation pond.
Huckaby is the granddaughter of Clifford Lawless, a pastor at the Clover Road Baptist Church. Consequentally, the church, where Huckaby held Sunday school, was searched for evidence by law enforcement.
Sgt. Sheneman also said the rest of Huckaby`s family was questioned, and that officers even searched family members` homes and vehicles during the course of their investigations.
The 28-year-old teacher reportedly said that Sandra came to her home on the day she went missing to a local newspaper. Huckaby also claimed that she forgot her suitcase in her driveway, and when she went back to get it, it was gone.