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Archive for May, 2009

Sandra Cantu murder suspect in custody dispute with ex-husband

The Stockton Record posted a story this morning outlining the custody battle between Sandra Cantu murder suspect Melissa Huckaby and her ex-husband, Johnny Huckaby.

Huckaby, who is due back in court Friday for further arraignment, has a 5-year-old daughter who was a playmate of Sandra’s, the 8-year-old from Tracy who was kidnapped March 27 and found dead 10 days later.

Huckaby, 28, was living with her grandparents and daughter in a Tracy mobile home park. She is charged with raping and killing the little girl, who lived nearby.

On April 16, less than a week after Tracy police arrested his ex-wife in connection with Sandra’s death, Johnny Huckaby asked a court in Orange County to give him custody of their daughter.

Melissa and Johnny Huckaby were married when she was pregnant. They moved to Southern California and divorced soon after, with Melissa getting full custody and Johnny at one point living in the Kansas City, Kan., area, where Melissa filed court papers earlier this year seeking unpaid child support from him.

Their daughter has been living with Melissa Huckaby’s parents, Judy and Brian Lawless, in the Southern California town of Cypress, according to court filings.

Posted on Wednesday, May 20th, 2009
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Video of Melissa Huckaby’s grandparents being interviewed

The Rev. Lane Lawless and his wife Connie Lawless, grandparents of murder suspect Melissa Huckaby, gave interviews to KSBW TV8, a Monterey area station, about the Sandra Cantu case, when they were attending a church conference in Salinas last month. To read our story about the Lawless family and how the case has affected them and their church, click here.

Posted on Thursday, May 7th, 2009
Under: Crime | 2 Comments »

Man who found Sandra Cantu’s body to accept reward Thursday

At 10 a.m. Thursday, Scott Webb, director of the Sund/Carrington Foundation, will present a reward check to Jose Luis Franco for finding the suitcase that contained the body of Sandra Cantu.

On April 6 Franco found a large black suitcase floating in a dairy farm pond near Whitehall Road. He thought it was suspicious, as it hadn’t been there two weeks ago when the pond was last drained, so police were called in at about 10 a.m.

After a day-long investigation, that had media helicopters hovering over the farm site to film shots of the suitcase, it was transported by San Joaquin County coroner’s officals and opened at their facilities.

Tracy kidnapping victim Cantu, 8, had been missing since March 27. She was last seen alive just two miles away from the pond, at the Orchard Estates Mobile Home park.

The suitcase would prove to a key piece of evidence in leading to the arrest of 28-year-old Melissa Huckaby, who told a local newspaper just a few days after Sandra’s body was found that she had a similar suitcase stolen from her driveway the day Sandra was reported missing.

Huckaby was arrested on murder, kidnapping and rape charges on April 10.

According a press release issued by Tracy police, the check will be handed over in a presentation expected to last about 30 minutes.

Although it was initially reported that the workers who found the body were refusing to accept a reward, last week police said about $20,000 would be given to an anonymous recipient — much to the chagrin of Los Angeles psychic Dana Pedlow, who claims she gave police key tips about the case.

Apparently, as Franco ended up giving media interviews, he’s no longer anonymous. According to one TV report, he planned to use the money to help his children attend college.

Posted on Wednesday, May 6th, 2009
Under: Crime | 1 Comment »

Nightline is latest to feature Sandra Cantu story on TV

It’s always strange to be a member of the media when a story you’re covering becomes big in the national news, as has been the case in Tracy ever since an abused boy in chains was discovered in December.

When you see a town in your midst reduced to a four-minute TV feature, complete with the sober voice of a broadcaster lamenting the loss of innocence, it gives one new perspective on how easy it is for the truth of a place to get lost in the spin.

A piece aired by Nightline last night, titled “American Gothic,” was the latest, following a long string including Nancy Grace segments, Dr. Phil and even a feature in People magazine.

The Nightline piece wasn’t bad (although I could have lived without 10 shots of the good old downtown water tower), but the title was a little much for a town of 82,000 that’s become a major residential hub for commuters working in the Bay Area.

Alluding to the classic 1930 Grant Wood painting of a stoic buttoned-up white Iowa farm couple really doesn’t have much to do with a Central Valley community where the population as of 2007 was about 30 percent Hispanic or Latino, with a long history of Portugese immigrants in the mix.

Posted on Friday, May 1st, 2009
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Psychic in rift with Tracy police over Cantu case posts her predictions about Sandra

Whatever you believe about psychics, Dani Pedlow’s initial thoughts about the Sandra Cantu case certainly seemed to have a tinge of truth, assuming this e-mail exchange she posted on her website this morning is true.

The posting is in response to our story about her beef with the Tracy police department.

Police and psychics working together to solve crimes isn’t anything new, but in the case of the Sandra Cantu murder case, this time it seems to be more a situation of Police vs. The Psychic.

The Los Angeles-based Pedlow, whose claim to fame is she predicted on live radio how a Poughkeepsie, N.Y., serial killer would be found, is upset because she swears she sent some tips to the Tracy police that identified where Sandra’s body would be found and is entitled to some of the reward money.

(Incidentally, Bay Area residents, Pedlow says she did undergraduate work in psychology and minored in criminology at Cal Poly and was offered a scholarship to U.C. Berkeley, but she instead went to New York to work on the radio.)

Here’s a few tidbits from her website biography: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, May 1st, 2009
Under: Crime | 7 Comments »