Searching for Sandra's Killer: Police Compile Search Warrants

Police issue some 15 warrants for both people and things, remain tight-lipped.

ByABC News
March 30, 2009, 3:28 PM

April 8, 2009— -- Police in Tracy, Calif., say at least 15 search warrants for both people and places have been executed, but they aren't saying who -- if anyone -- has been targeted as they continue their hunt for the person who murdered 8-year-old Sandra Cantu.

Tracy Police Sgt. Tony Sheneman told that police would not likely return today to the Clove Road Baptist Church where investigators spent several hours Tuesday acting on a search warrant that like the others has been sealed by a local judge.

"No one person is being focused on," he said. "We're still considering many people."

Sandra's family could not be reached for comment today.

The second-grader's body was found Monday stuffed in a suitcase that was dumped in an irrigation pond, a few miles away from the Orchard Estates Moble Home Park where Sandra lived with her mother , siblings and grandparents. She disappeared March 27 after leaving her home to play with a friend in the complex.

Sheneman told ABC News Tuesday that police are closing in on a suspect in Sandra's death.

"It's not as big a mystery as it was," before, said Sheneman to, "and we believe we're getting significantly closer."

Today, Sheneman wouldn't comment how police were tipped off to a possible connection with the church or what they found only saying the search was based on information learned as part of the investigation.

Police and FBI agents began working at the church, located about 500 feet from Sandra's home, around 2 p.m. on Tuesday and continued into the evening, Sheneman said.

ABC's KGO-TV in San Francisco reported that a team of FBI agents removed items from inside the church and from the pastor's home which is located in the same mobile home park where Sandra lived. FBI agents were also seen searching a crawl space under the church.

The pastor's wife, Connie Lawless, told KGO that they are cooperating with police. She confirmed that investigators removed some items from their home. "They took the usual stuff -- phone, computers, things of that nature. We were very open to them taking anything they wanted to take."

Sheneman had harsh words for some local media outlets who turned their focus on Pastor Lane Lawless as a possible suspect in Sandra's slaying, saying the pastor and his wife were just two of the hundreds police have interviewed.

"For them to name the pastor as the primary suspect and that he was about to be arrested was not only incorrect, but irresponsible," Sheneman told today.

Joani Hughes, the Lawless' daughter, told today that all the media attention directed both at them and the church has exhausted her parents.

Her father has been the pastor of the Clove Road Baptist Church for about 30 years, she said, and their great-granddaughter was one of Sandra's playmates. Hughes said Sandra's death has been very hard on her parents and that they feel "devastated" for her family.

As for the church involvement, Hughes said they are taking it in stride and will do anything police ask. They want the killer to be brought to justice as much as anyone, she said.

"They're saddened that the church is needing to be searched, but they're completely open to whatever the police are needed to do," she said.

Sheneman said there are have been reports circulated that a suitcase had been stolen from a home in the trailer park, apparently circulated by local news media based on an interview with neighbors.

"We have been unable to verify that anyone has lost any luggage," he said.