Suspect in Tracy girl's murder due in court

STOCKTON, Calif. " The woman suspected of raping and murdering an 8-year-old Tracy girl is expected to make her second appearance in a Stockton courtroom Friday.

Melissa Huckaby, 28, was arrested April 10, just days after Sandra Cantu's body was found in a suitcase pulled from an irrigation pond.

Huckaby has been charged with murder with the special circumstances of kidnapping, lewd or lascivious conduct with a child and rape with a foreign object. A conviction on any of the three special circumstances would make Huckaby eligible for the death penalty. Prosecutors haven't said whether they would seek the death penalty.

Huckaby is being held without bail at the San Joaquin County Jail, and has not entered a plea.

Legal experts not associated with the case but who have been watching it say a plea likely won't come Friday. Huckaby was recently assigned a new public defender that has said he hasn't received any of the evidence prosecutors obtained from the investigation.

Rather than enter a plea, public defender Sam Behar more likely would ask for that evidence, the experts said.

On Thursday, investigators revisited the Tracy church where Huckaby was a volunteer Sunday school teacher and her grandfather is the pastor. Investigators were seen in a KRON-TV news report removing items from the church, but no information about the items was available.

All search warrants in the case have been sealed and Superior Court Judge Linda Lofthus has issued a gag order preventing any discussion of the case outside court by involved parties.

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