(CNN) — Police have arrested a Sunday-school teacher in the killing of California 8-year-old Sandra Cantu, authorities said early Saturday.
Melissa Huckaby was arrested on charges of kidnapping and murder, according to Tracy, California, police Sgt. Tony Sheneman. Police would not reveal what led to Huckaby’s arrest, but said it followed questioning. They did not offer a possible motive. Huckaby lived in the same mobile home park as Sandra’s family, and Sandra was friends with Huckaby’s daughter, Sheneman said. Sandra’s body was found Monday, stuffed into a suitcase in a dairy-farm pond. The girl, from Tracy, had been missing since March 27. The suitcase that held Sandra’s body belonged to Huckaby, Sheneman said. Police have had contact with Huckaby before, but she does not have a record of violence, Sheneman said, without offering further details. An autopsy was conducted on Sandra’s body on Tuesday. Autopsy results are not expected for four to six weeks, CNN affiliate KRON-TV reported earlier in the week, citing the coroner’s office. Police have conducted hundreds of interviews in the case.
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On Tuesday, authorities searched a Baptist church near the mobile home park where Sandra lived. The church’s pastor, Lane Lawless, and his wife, Connie, spoke to KRON as they drove by the church Tuesday. Lawless said police had seized computers, phones and other items from his family’s trailer, located in the same park as Sandra’s family. He said his great-granddaughter regularly played with Sandra. “We’ve been in the park for 13 years, and we’ve known her and her sister since before they were born,” Connie Lawless told KRON. “So they’re like children to us; they’re like our children.” Watch neighbors remember slain girl »
The day Sandra was last reported seen, she returned home from school, kissed her mother and left to play with a friend who lives nearby. A short time later, wearing a pink Hello Kitty T-shirt and black leggings, she left to go to another friend’s home, according to a family spokeswoman. Police said the girl’s clothing helped them identify her body.