Police search church for clues to California girl’s slaying

Sandra Cantu, 8, was found in a suitcase at a dairy-farm pond near her Calilfornia home.
Authorities searched a church near where an 8-year-old California girl was found dead Monday in the hopes of finding clues that would lead to her killer.

The body of Sandra Cantu of Tracy, California, was found stuffed into a suitcase in a dairy-farm pond. Cantu had been missing since March 27. Tracy police Sgt. Tony Sheneman told CNN’s Nancy Grace he would not elaborate on what evidence led them to Clover Road Baptist Church. He would say only that detectives developed probable cause that persuaded a judge to sign a search warrant. Lane Lawless, the church’s pastor, told CNN affiliate KCRA he was questioned for about three hours by police, adding that he had nothing to do with Cantu’s disappearance or death. “We have fully cooperated with the police,” Lawless told KCRA. “We have answered all their questions.” Authorities also searched the mobile home park Tuesday where Tracy lived. “Investigators are looking at additional information they received since yesterday (Monday) and, hopefully, that will lead us to Sandra’s killers,” Sheneman said. Asked if his use of the plural meant police were looking for more than one person, Sheneman responded, “We have no specific suspects.” Sheneman also implied the killer likely was familiar with the location where the body was found. He said he himself was unfamiliar with the location where the girl’s body was found, despite having lived in the community for nearly 12 years.

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“Someone would have to be familiar with that area to know to go there,” he said. Watch how the suitcase was found » Sheneman said police had no one in custody, despite having interviewed hundreds of people regarding the case. “Everyone that we speak to right now is being considered a person of interest,” he said. “We’re not eliminating anyone.” The autopsy was being conducted Tuesday, but it was not clear when the report would be available. “It’s going to be some time before we hear from the coroner,” Sheneman said. “I can’t tell you when that’s going to be.” More than 10 search warrants have been executed as part of the investigation and “a lot” of evidence has been recovered, Sheneman said.

The day Cantu 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 Monday the girl’s clothing helped them identify the body.