Sandra Cantu murder defendant pleads not guilty | NevadaAppeal.com

Sandra Cantu murder defendant pleads not guilty

Associated Press
FILE - In this April 14, 2009 file photo, Melissa Huckaby, 28, listens in a Stockton, Calif., courtroom during her arraignment. The Sunday school teacher accused of murdering an eight-year-old Northern California girl is due back in court, and prosecutors want her to enter a plea. Twenty-eight-year-old Melissa Huckaby is scheduled to make her fourth court appearance Friday. She's charged with murder, rape and kidnapping in the death of Sandra Cantu. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, pool, file)
AP | AP POOL

STOCKTON, Calif. – The Sunday school teacher accused of kidnapping, raping and killing an eight-year-old Northern California girl has pleaded not guilty to murder charges.

During a 10-minute hearing Friday, the lawyer for 28-year-old Melissa Huckaby entered the plea on her behalf.

Authorities say Huckaby killed Sandra Cantu, who was a playmate of Huckaby’s daughter. The girl’s body was later found stuffed in a suitcase in a nearby irrigation pond.

Friday’s plea comes after increased pressure by prosecutors to have Huckaby enter a plea. Her lawyer, Sam Behar, has repeatedly requested more time to review evidence in the case.

If convicted, Huckaby could face the death penalty.

The judge scheduled her preliminary hearing to start Sept. 24.