Sunday School Teacher Pleads Guilty in Girl's Murder

Melissa Huckaby admits killing 8-year-old Sandra Cantu
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 10, 2010 1:13 PM CDT
In this April 14, 2009 file photo, Melissa Huckaby, 28, listens in a Stockton, Calif., courtroom during her arraignment.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, pool, file)
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(Newser) – A California Sunday school teacher accused of kidnapping, raping, and killing an 8-year-old playmate of her daughter, then stuffing the body in a suitcase, pleaded guilty today to murder. Melissa Huckaby, 29, entered the guilty plea in San Joaquin County Superior Court to a charge of first-degree murder with a special circumstance of kidnapping. As part of a deal, all other charges—including two involving rape and lewd or lascivious conduct with a child under 14—were dropped.

The initial charges in the grand jury indictment last year would have made her eligible for the death penalty. Huckaby now faces 25 years to life in prison without parole when she's sentenced June 14. Authorities say Huckaby killed 8-year-old Sandra Cantu in March 2009. Her body was pulled from an irrigation pond a few miles from the Tracy mobile home park where both the child and Huckaby defendant lived.

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