More allegations surface against Melissa Huckaby, who is set for arraignment Friday

By Howard Breuer
April 23, 2009 06:45 PM

Melissa Huckaby, arrested in the murder of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu in Tracy, Calif., is expected to enter a plea Friday to murder charges that could lead to a death sentence upon conviction.

In the nearly two weeks since Huckaby’s arrest, reports have surfaced that the 28-year-old Sunday school teacher has also been connected with another child abduction at the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park, and to two arsons in Southern California.

“There are two fires that were set in 2007 and she is a person of interest in at least one of the fires, if not both,” La Palma police Capt. Jim Enright told reporters this week. “Both fires were arson.” No more official information was available. The court has since imposed a gag order banning cameras from the courtroom and preventing authorities across California from discussing any cases in which Huckaby is a suspect.

Evelyn Lloyd, Huckaby’s roommate in La Palma, tells the Tracy Press that the fires occurred eight days apart in the summer of 2007 at a four-bedroom house they shared. Lloyd said police found a baby’s bottle with gasoline, a threatening letter and newspapers stuffed in the side window of her first-story room.

Lloyd was jailed on suspicion of committing the first fire; the second fire occurred while she was behind bars. Charges against her were later dismissed, court records show.

Huckaby, the granddaughter of the pastor at a church near the Tracy mobile home park, will enter a plea Friday to charges of murder with the special circumstances of rape by instrument, kidnapping and lewd and lascivious acts on a child. Those special circumstances allow prosecutors to ask a jury for the death sentence, although district attorneys don’t usually decide that issue until closer to trial.

Huckaby, a neighbor of Cantu’s, allegedly kidnapped and murdered the girl March 27, as she played with Huckaby’s 5-year-old daughter. Huckaby allegedly stuffed Cantu’s body into a suitcase that was dumped in a nearby agricultural pond, then reported the suitcase stolen.

Cantu’s mother, Maria Chavez, tells Dr. Phil she was “very shocked” to learn police had arrested her neighbor – another mom – in connection with the crime. Chavez said that Huckaby’s daughter “didn’t come to our house; my kids went over to her house.”

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