Was There Another Victim Before Sandra?

Police logs may tie Melissa Huckaby to 7-year-old girl who briefly went missing.

April 20, 2009, 1:46 PM

April 20, 2009— -- Family members of a 7-year-old Tracy, Calif., girl who they said was taken by woman and returned four hours later with drugs in her system described a person who appears to bear similarities to Melissa Chantel Huckaby, the woman charged with kidnapping and murdering 8-year-old Sandra Cantu, according to police logs of the incident.

The incident was reported on January 17 by a family in the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park in Tracy. Huckaby and Cantu also lived in the same trailer park before police found the little girl's body on April 10.

According to the police log, the woman who took the girl drove a purple Kia Sportage. Police towed a purple Kia Sportage registered to Huckaby the day after farmworkers found Sandra's body inside a suitcase dumped in a dairy lagoon.

The logs also said "Child is poss[ibly] with another residents granddaughter in a trailer." Huckaby is the granddaughter of residents of the trailer park, with whom she lived.

According to the police report, after the girl returned she tested positive for benzodiazepines, depressants that are prescribed as a sedative or to induce sleep, relieve anxiety and muscle spasms, and prevent seizures..

Tracy police said they could not discuss the reported abduction in January because it's part of the ongoing murder investigation.

This is the latest twist in the case against Huckaby, 28.

Just days after 8-year-old Sandra Cantu was laid to rest, a court is slated to hold a hearing on the latest twist in the case against her accused killer -- a request to exhume the second-grader's body.

Sandra's private funeral was held last Wednesday. One day later the request was filed to exhume her body so the defense for accused killer Melissa Huckaby would have an opportunity to conduct its own autopsy.

Huckaby's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Samuel Behar, professed to have no knowledge of the case when contacted by ABCNews.com, but a court document filed by Behar Thursday indicated the request was based on the deputy district attorney's belief that Sandra had suffered "genital trauma consistent with forcible penetration."

Sandra Cantu Exhumation Hearing Expected Friday

In addition to murder, Huckaby has been charged with the special circumstances of kidnapping, lewd and lavicious acts with a child and rape with a foreign object.

In the court document, Behar said the defense needed to examine the alleged trauma so Huckaby would be able to defend herself. He also requested the exhumation take place quickly, alleging that deterioration would cause Sandra's body to have "progressively diminishing value."

The request asked for the exhumation to take place last Friday, April 17,

A San Joaquin Superior Court spokeswoman said a hearing on the exhumation request is scheduled for Friday, the same day Huckaby is due back in court for a further arraignment where she would have the opportunity to enter a plea.

San Joaquin Deputy District Attorney Robert Himelblau told ABCNews.com today that his office would be filing a response to the request but did not elaborate.

Sandra's aunt, who has been acting as the family spokesoman, said she could not comment on the request.

"I wish I could, but I can't," Cantu's aunt, Angie Chavez, told ABCNews.com today.

Babara Sokoloski, who was Sandra's neighbor in the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park, said she sees no need to disturb the little girl who used to come by the house to visit.

"I can't see any sense in it," Sokoloski said. "If they checked her body before ... they wouldn't say she was sexually molested unless they did see something."

Despite the sympathies that lay with Sandra's family and the understandable ill ease that may come with the idea of exhuming her body, Denver-based criminal defense attorney Lisa Wayne said Huckaby's public defender is doing what he needs to in order to properly defend his client.

Behar's request claims Sandra's body was released to a funeral chapel April 7, four days before Huckaby was arrested and charged with her murder. According to the court document, Sandra is interred in an above-ground crypt.

Wayne, who lectures across the country on the defense of sex crimes, is not involved in the Huckaby case, but said the defense attorney is well within his rights to examine every piece of evidence against his client, including Sandra's body.

"It sounds cold, but it is evidence," Wayne said.

"It sounds as if something in the autopsy report or some evidence he has seen -- there's some red flags or he has some concerns," she said.

Could Second Autopsy Mean Life or Death for Accused Killer?

There could be many alternatives other than sexual assault to explain injuries, such as vaginal tearing or lacerations, Wayne said, including prior sexual assault or something as innocent as riding a bicycle.

If Huckaby is found to have sexually assaulted Sandra, Wayne said, evidence found during the defense's autopsy could mean the difference between the death penalty, life in prison or a lesser sentence.

On the flip side, she said, evidence that the sexual trauma was fresh and took place immediately prior to or during Sandra's death would negate the possibility that the little girl was killed by accident.

Sandra's body was discovered April 6, found stuffed into a suitcase in an irrigation pond. Huckaby, the granddaughter of a preacher who taught Sunday school and lived in the same mobile home park as Sandra, was arrested days later after police say she gave interviews to the local media that included statements inconsistent with what she had told authorities.

Chavez said the family was mostly holding up as best they could. They were shocked at the massive turnout for Sandra's public memorial service, held Thursday.

"We were very surprised," Chavez said. "We knew she touched a lot of people."

Mourners and well-wishers stopped by the mobile home park for days after Sandra was found, leaving flowers, signs, candles and stuffed animals. But now that the focus has turned to Huckaby's trial, Sokoloski said, the park, once crawling with police and reporters, has started to quiet down.

The neighborhood, she said, is just "trying to get back to normal."

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