Was Alleged Drugging of 7-Year-old a Precursor to Sandra Cantu's Murder?

Did cops fumble an earlier Huckaby case? Could Sandra have been saved?

ByABC News
April 20, 2009, 1:46 PM

April 21, 2009— -- A teenager who believes accused killer Melissa Huckaby drugged her 7-year-old sister earlier this year said the subsequent murder of 8-year-old Sandra Cantumight not have happened if detectives had taken the matter more seriously at the time.

"If they would have did their job right and actually made a police report or whatever, everything with Sandra could have been prevented and she could have been here today," said the 18-year-old sister, who requested her name not be used.

Police in Tracy, Calif., said they acted properly in the case of the 7-year-old, whose name is being withheld.

"There was a complete investigation done and documented," Tracy Police Sgt. Tony Sheneman told ABCNews.com today. "I can't speak to specifics.

"No probable cause was developed to make an arrest," he said. "We don't take any crime [against] a child lightly."

Police logs show that officers from the Tracy Police Department responded to the Orchard Estates Mobile Home ParkJan. 17 for a call about a missing blond-haired, blue eyed child.

The log details a report that the child was possibly "with another resident's granddaughter in a trailer."

Huckaby, who has been charged with the rape and murder of Sandra, lived with her grandparents in Orchard Estates. Sandra Cantu lived in the same trailer park when she disappeared last month.

Sandra's body was found April 6, stuffed into a suitcase that had been thrown into an irrigation pond. Huckaby was charged days later with murder and the special circumstances of kidnapping, lewd and lavicious acts with a child and rape with a foreign object, which qualify her for the dealth penalty should prosecutors seek that option.

Like Sandra, the 7-year-old girl used to play with Huckaby's 5-year-old daughter, Madison. The young woman said her sister had gone to the park that day in January with Huckaby despite not getting permission to do so.

When the little girl couldn't be found, the family called police, the older sister told several news outlets, including ABC News, in a phone interview. Cops searched the entire mobile home park, "but she was nowhere to be found in here," she said. "Then a couple hours later after the detectives and everybody came, Melissa brought her home."

According to police logs she was returned in a purple Kia Sportage that matches the description of Huckaby's car that was towed by police after Sandra's murder.

The teen said her little sister, who was also a playmate of Sandra's, had been drugged before she came home.

"Her speech was slurred ... like she had a really bad lisp," the woman said. "And she would cry a lot like something was wrong with her. She couldn't stand up without help. She couldn't walk. Everytime she tried to walk, she would fall."

"So they took her to the hospital, and the hospital told us that she had muscle relaxants in her system," the 18-year-old said.