Prosecutors said Monday they may include rape and molestation allegations in their murder charge against the woman suspected of killing an 8-year-old Northern California girl and putting her body in a suitcase.
Melissa Huckaby, 28, was arrested Friday on suspicion of kidnapping and murdering Sandra Cantu.
San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Robert Himmelblau told The Associated Press Monday that a homicide charge against Huckaby could also include the special circumstances of rape with a foreign object, lewd and lascivious conduct with a child and murder in the course of a kidnapping.
A conviction on any of the special circumstances would make Huckaby eligible for the death penalty or life in prison without parole, Himmelblau said. The district attorney has not determined whether his office will seek the death penalty in the case, he said.
Sandra disappeared March 27. She was last seen on surveillance video skipping near her home at the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park in Tracy. A 10-day search ended April 6, when farmworkers draining a nearby irrigation pond found a suitcase that contained her remains.
Himmelblau wouldn’t provide additional details on any evidence leading prosecutors to consider the sexual assault allegations. Police have not released any details on how, where or why Sandra was killed.
"I was hoping that wasn't the case," said Sandra’s aunt, AngieChavez, regarding the possibility of rape and molestationallegations.
"I'm in shock," she said through tears. "The whole thing is unimaginable."
Formal charges have not yet been filed against Huckaby. A final decision on which special circumstances to include has not been made, Himmelblau said. Huckaby is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in Stockton.
Himmelblau was not aware if Huckaby had an attorney. Himmelblau said prosecutors were considering filing other charges against Huckaby but declined to specify what the additional charges may be.
She remained in custody without bail in San Joaquin County jail Monday where jail staff have been monitoring her mental health.
She’s not been allowed visitors.
Tracy police did not immediately return messages seeking comment. San Joaquin County Sheriff's Deputy Les Garcia said autopsy results were still pending.