Police apparently began to narrow in on Huckaby early last week when investigators from Tracy and the FBI began searching the Clover Road Baptist Church. Huckaby had made comments to the local media about her suitcase having been stolen and, later, that she had found a note after Sandra disappeared, apparently from the killer
The grief and fears of this small, tight Northern California town of about 78,000 people, which sits about 60 miles east of San Francisco, are now laced with anger at the neighbor the Tracy residents thought they knew, who now stands accused of taking young Sandra's life.
"I hope she rots for this," Amber Austin, a Tracy resident, said last week. "You have no right to take an innocent child's life."
John Hughes Jr., Huckaby's uncle who lives in Whittier, Calif., told The Associated Press that his niece was "from a good home but had hit a rough patch in her life and had moved in with her grandparents in Tracy."
He described Huckaby, who grew up in California's Orange County, as the oldest of nine grandchildren, and said she often played "mother hen" to the younger children at family get-togethers.
Married and divorced with a young daughter, Huckaby's uncle said she had difficulty finding and keeping a job.
"She's had her struggles," Hughes told the AP, but there's no way [her grandparents] or anybody would be fearful that anything this horrifying could possible come from that."
ABC News' Katy Leaver in San Francisco, ABC News Radio, Michael S. James and The Associated Press contributed to this report.