State

Grand jury indictment in Tracy girl's death

STOCKTON -- A San Joaquin County grand jury has returned a five-count indictment against Melissa Huckaby, accused of kidnapping, raping and killing 8-year-old Sandra Cantu of Tracy.

The indictment was read in court Monday afternoon where Huckaby, who had several fresh scratches on her forehead, appeared with her attorney.

Huckaby, 28, was indicted for murder with three enhancements: kidnapping, lewd and lascivious acts on a child and rape with a foreign object.

Sandra's body was found April 6 in a black suitcase in an irrigation pond near the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park, where the Huckaby and Cantu families live.

Huckaby also was indicted on two counts of furnishing a harmful substance and one count of child endangerment. Those counts relate to the alleged drugging of a Hayward man and of another Tracy girl in the months before Sandra disappeared. Those cases are unrelated to Sandra's death.

Deputy District Attorney Thomas Testa said the cuts on Huckaby's forehead stemmed from an incident at the San Joaquin County Jail on Monday morning. He said he could not discuss it further.

The case is under a judicial gag order, and the grand jury transcripts are temporarily sealed. Huckaby did not enter a plea. She returns to court Sept. 10.

Testa said the district attorney's office is treating the case as if it will be a death penalty case, but no decision is expected on that for one to two months.

Huckaby had been scheduled for a preliminary hearing in September, where a judge would have determined if there was enough evidence for trial after hearing testimony from witnesses.

Instead the grand jury, which met in secret, heard that testimony last month. The grand jury's indictment makes the public preliminary hearings unnecessary.

Tracy police arrested Huckaby April 10, two weeks after Sandra was reported missing March 27.

Sandra was last seen near her home at the mobile home park.

An intense search involving police, the FBI, friends and neighbors took place and garnered national attention.

Huckaby is being held without bail.

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