TRACY — A day after the defendant in Sandra Cantu's slaying was arraigned in a Stockton courtroom, family and friends of the 8-year-old held a private funeral in Tracy.
Sandra was laid to rest Wednesday in a mausoleum, her child-sized pink casket carried by a horse-drawn wagon and signed by her elementary school classmates.
Today, thousands are expected to turn out for a public memorial at West High School in Tracy at 1 p.m. at which Sen. Barbara Boxer and state Attorney General Jerry Brown are expected to speak.
"We're focusing on beginning the healing process for the community and the family," said Sgt. Tony Sheneman, Tracy police spokesman.
Flowers and teddy bears surrounded photographs of Sandra on a dais in the West High School gymnasium Wednesday evening.
The gym will hold more than 2,500 spectators, but preparations have been made to seat hundreds more in the school cafeteria and the football stadium, if necessary, for today's memorial.
After the tension of Tuesday, when Melissa Huckaby was charged with murder, kidnapping and rape with a foreign object, the city of Tracy seemed subdued Wednesday. Huckaby did not enter a plea but is expected to do so at an April 24 court hearing.
At Sandra's funeral, about 170 guests prayed with a police chaplain and watched a video and slide show of Sandra's life, Sheneman said.
Her classmates, second-graders at Jacobsen Elementary, said goodbye and signed her casket with markers, he said.
Huckaby, a 28-year-old Sunday school teacher who lived a few doors from Cantu's family at the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park, remains in custody at the San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp, south of Stockton.
Huckaby's 5-year-old daughter was a playmate of Sandra's.
Police and prosecutors have not explained the circumstances surrounding Sandra's death, including how she was killed and why.
They say Huckaby is the only suspect.
Many remain baffled. Incidents of women acting alone in the kidnapping, rape and murder of a child are extremely rare.