Sandra Cantu's Accused Killer Returns to Court

The judge overseeing the murder trial of the woman accused of raping and killing 8-year-old Sandra Cantu ordered the girl's autopsy and toxicology reports sealed, citing her family's right to privacy and saying there was a danger that the public would be outraged.

Melissa Huckaby, 28, did not enter a formal plea during a brief hearing today. Her arraignment was postponed until next month, when she is expected to enter a plea. Huckaby's family did not comment to reporters after the hearing.

Huckaby appeared more composed today than she did during a court hearing last week, during which she cried and appeared visibly distraught.

Huckaby has been charged with murder with the special circumstances of kidnapping, lewd and lavicious acts with a child and rape with a foreign object. Sandra's body was found April 6, 10 days after she went missing.

Cantu's mother, Maria Chavez, had to be hospitalized and sedated after Sandra's body was found stuffed in a suitcase and tossed in an irrigation pond. Chavez seemed still to be struggling with the grisly discovery when she appeared on Dr. Phil's show this week.

During the show, which was taped Tuesday and aired Wednesday, Chavez was unable to speak without dissolving into sobs. The distraught woman, still visibly shaken, struggled for her composure -- taking short, stuttered breaths for much of the show while Sandra's aunt spoke for the family.

Tensions have been running high around the area, especially in the town of Tracy where Sandra and Huckaby lived in the same mobile home park.

"We turned away about 30 to 40 people" at Huckaby's court hearing last week, Rosa Junqueiro, San Joaquin Superior Court's executive officer, told

Interest in the hearing has been heightened since the court issued a gag order Tuesday on virtually everyone involved in the case. The gag order has shut down much of the information about the high profile case.

Twists in Cantu Murder Case Keep Coming

Despite the order, fresh accusations emerged about Huckaby.

The Tracy Press, which helped break open the investigation of Huckaby as a suspect, has reported that Huckaby is a "person of interest" in two 2007 arsons in La Palma, Calif., about 350 miles away from Tracy.

One hearing that was canceled this week was a request by Huckaby's lawyers to exhume Sandra's body for a second autopsy. The request was dropped earlier this week.

Public defender Peter Fox told the San Francisco Chronicle that the deputy public defender handling the case was told by the county's chief medical examiner "the relevant samples" for the defense to conduct independent tests to determine whether the girl had been raped "were preserved" and were not interred with the girl's body in a mausoleum.

"It will not be necessary to disturb the child's remains," Fox told the Chronicle. "From a human point of view, certainly it's nice not to have to do that."