Charges added against suspect in Tracy girl's death

STOCKTON -- The Tracy Sunday school teacher accused of slaying an 8-year-old girl has been charged with slipping harmful substances to a 7-year-old girl and a man earlier this year.

Melissa Huckaby, 28, was in court to enter a plea Friday in San Joaquin County Superior Court to charges that she raped, kidnapped and murdered Sandra Cantu on March 27. But the judge continued the matter until June 12 after public defender Sam Behar asked for time to review the new charges and more than 1,000 of pages of evidence recently provided by the prosecution.

Prosecutors on Thursday filed additional charges, alleging Huckaby gave a "harmful substance" to a child identified only as "Jane M. Doe" on Jan. 17. That day a resident of the trailer park where Huckaby lived had reported her daughter missing. The mother later told police that when Huckaby returned the girl, she had been drugged with a muscle relaxant.

Huckaby was additionally charged with mingling a harmful substance with food or drink provided to Daniel Plowman in early March. The complaint did not further identify the injured man and did not describe the circumstances or the substance involved.

Outside the courtroom, Deputy District Attorney Robert Himmelblau described Plowman as a "victim and a witness" but would not comment further on his connection to Huckaby.

When asked if the new charges related to the Cantu case, Himmelblau said, "You can add counts that don't necessarily relate to the main count if they are the same class of crime or are connected."

Himmelblau declined to elaborate, citing the gag order in the case.

During the brief session in a packed courtroom, Huckaby sat calmly in a red jail jumpsuit and shackles. She did not speak except to answer "yes" when the judge asked whether she understood the case was being further delayed.

She is accused of murdering Cantu, her daughter's playmate.

Huckaby also was charged with the special circumstances of rape, kidnapping and lewd or lascivious conduct with a child under 14, which could make her eligible for the death penalty upon conviction.

During Huckaby's second court appearance April 25, prosecutors said they had turned over recordings and 500 pages of evidence to the defense.

Superior Court Judge Linda Lofthus granted the prosecution's request to seal autopsy and toxicology reports. The judge said she was sealing the documents out of respect for the girl's family and the need to protect Huckaby's right to a fair trial.

Huckaby was arrested April 10, just days after Sandra's body was found in a suitcase pulled from an irrigation pond near her home in a Tracy mobile home park.