A 29-year-old former Sunday school teacher was sentenced to life without parole Monday for murdering one of her daughter’s playmates and hiding her body in a suitcase.
Melissa Huckaby pleaded guilty to the murder and kidnapping of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu in a California court room but denied allegations that she sexually assaulted the young girl.
Prosecutors say however that a rolling pin was found at the church where Huckaby taught with traces of the child’s blood, consistent with injuries found on the outside of the girl’s genitals.
When police discovered Cantu’s body she was stuffed inside a suitcase with injuries to her head and body along with a bottle of alprazolam, a prescription sedative used to treat anxiety that was reportedly used on the child before she was smothered to death.
Prosecutors worked out a plea deal with Huckaby and agreed to drop the sexual assault charges if she pleaded guilty to first degree murder with a special case of kidnapping.
The death penalty was also ruled out as punishment as part of the agreement.
Huckaby made a tearful apology to the girl’s family Monday saying,
“I still cannot understand why I did what I did. This is a question I will struggle with for the rest of my life.”
She also made sure to add that the young girl, “did not suffer, and I did not sexually molest your daughter.”