Sandra Cantu Case: Huckaby’s Dark Past Emerges

Huckaby_arraigned1__04_15_09Tracy, CA- As we all watched the horrific events leading up to the finding of Sandra Cantu’s remains in a suitcase in an irrigation pond, there was a collective feeling of “There has to be more”.  When murder and rape suspect Melissa Huckaby, 28, was arrested  and we watched her appearance in court, the confusion was palpable. 

Tracy Police Sgt. Tony Sheneman stated the Tracy PD is getting hundreds of calls per day from the public emphatically declaring there is no way she acted alone in the molestation, rape and murder of this beautiful child we last saw skipping past her home. The fact that Tracy PD admits they do not have a motive for this crime, and can’t begin to speculate on one, leaves most of us struggling to accept or discount, in some cases both, the senseless scenario of a woman without a violent past viciously raping and murdering an innocent little girl.

Melissa Huckaby’s family and friends burst onto the scene immediately upon her arrest to proclaim other than mild depression, she had no psychological markers to indicate she was capable of such an atrocity.  Joni Lawless Hughes , Huckaby’s aunt, went as far as to say this was completely out of character and they could not and did not believe she committed the crimes she is accused of.  As is usually the case fairly quickly after a crime of this nature, friends and known associates of Melissa Huckaby are telling a very different story.

Suicidal in the Sixth Grade

A classmate of Huckaby’s, Emily Fontes, recounts a very sad and early indication Melissa was deeply troubled. In a letter dated May 20, 1999, one month before her graduation, Huckaby claims to have been suicidal since the sixth grade. An excerpt:

..All I know is I have come up with a solution that will solve all my problems, and I have been seriously thinking about it.. I have been thinking about it for a very long time and I am very serious about it..

When I was little, like sixth grade, I used to pray like every night that I would not wake up in the morning. I just wasn’t meant to live I guess. No one wants me or even cares if I live or not and I’m just in the way anyways.


High School Years

Huckaby grew up in LaHabra and attended Brea High School.  Carol Finn was Huckaby’s former dance instructor and was shocked to learn of her arrest: 

“It’s shocking that anyone would do that, but it’s very surprising that Melissa would do it,” “I think sometimes kids in high school, you see there’s hatred or they are upset about things in the world. … But Melissa was never that way.” “You know there … are students, they did something bad and you say, ‘Oh well, I could see that coming.’ But that wasn’t the case with Melissa at all. You never would have dreamt that she (would do) anything bad.”

Finn said Huckaby and a friend would regularly visit her during lunch and after school. Finn doesn’t believe Huckaby had previous dance training but enjoyed dancing. Huckaby never caused any problems. 

Trouble Begins

A source inside the investigation of Melissa Huckaby has confirmed that her first serious boyfriend and high school sweetheart moved away right around the time Melissa began having difficulty at home with her parents, as did her best friend. Huckaby  It was at this time, during the end of her senior year, that Huckaby accused a Cypress Police Officer of raping her in the back of his patrol car while she was in handcuffs. As first reported by The Tracy Press,  three of Huckaby’s friends who do not wish to be identified begrudgingly divulged the information about the rape to Tracy Press reporter Jenn Wadswoth.  All claim they do not know one another, and according to Wadsworth all 3 stories were identical.  As my readers know, I do not report unsubstantiated rumor on blinkoncrime, especially from unverifiable sources. I emailed Ms. Wadsworth of my concern to carry her piece  without corroberation and in very short order, she had confirmation on the invesigation of the alleged rape report by Melissa Huckaby from Sgt. Tom Bruce  from Tracy Press: 

 Cypress police department spokesman Sgt. Tom Bruce said today that the department there conducted an investigation into claims by a Tracy murder suspect that a cop raped her 10 years ago. The investigation cleared the Orange County officer.

One has got to ponder the relationship between the occurrances at this time in Huckaby’s life almost concurrently. Boyfriend and best friend move away, parents adopt a baby girl,  Huckaby alleges rape.  How these incidents unfolded chronologically and by what catalyst will undoubtedly provide a significant window into her behavior going forward.

(editors note: My sincere thanks to Ms. Wadsworth for verifying the authenticity of this information and I look forward to her upcoming exclusives on the Sandra Cantu case.  This reporter is doing exactly what reporters are supposed to do- report fairly and accurately, yes, but investigate!  Her work has progressed this case without a doubt and I applaud the zeal of an investigative colleague any day.)

Huckaby is said to have divided her time between Tracy and Orange County for the time period following her graduation up until June 2008 when she moved in with her grandparents, Connie and Pastor Clifford Lane Lawless. In 2002, Huckaby took out a restraining order against a recent former boyfriend, Josh Palmer . According to those documents, she alleged the respondent was threatening to kill her and her grandfather, Lane Lawless.

On a recent GMA appearance, Johnny Huckaby, Melissa’s former husband and father of their 5 year old daughter, confirmed that she had been dating someone prior to their relationship that was a cause for concern for Melissa.  Blinkoncrime has learned from court records Mr. Palmer was arrested for a DUI with a special circumstance of having a passenger under the age of 14 at the time of the citation, but the identity of the child is not known. Mr. Palmer has an extensive criminal record.

In 2003, Huckaby claimed bankruptcy which included charges from 2 ambulance transportations and outstinding hospital bills. As she was receiving public asisstance at the time, it is unclear what the fees were for, and why should would not have been eligible for indigent charge off.  She married Juhnny Huckaby and give birth to their child a few months later.

In 2005 Huckaby got a job as a Medical terminologist and divorced Johnny Hukaby; who has not spoken to her or seen his daughter since chortly thereafter. It would seem the ascension into what appears to be Ms. Huckaby’s psychological downturn starts to be more visual beginning with her theft charges in 2006 in Los Angeles County.  Almost immediately following that arrest, Huckaby and her daughter moved to a home in La Palma.

Were there Was Smoke There was Fire

In 2007, Melissa Huckaby rented a room at 7101 Caprice Circle, La Palma.  It appears to be a spacious home in a nice neighborhood and Huckaby’s roomate Evelyn Lloyd had enjoyed living there for the last 12 years:

“She was very nice … very cordial,” said Evelyn Lloyd, her housemate who lived at the house for about 12 years. “Every girl who ended up in (that) house had a story. She (Huckaby) really didn’t have a story. She was very secretive.”

In 2007, two fires were set at the house just eight days apart. Lloyd was arrested in the first fire on July 20, but the case against her was dismissed. Lloyd said Huckaby might have set her up.

Huckaby and her daughter were at the house when the second fire broke out, on July 28, said La Palma Police Chief Edward Ethell. Everyone who lived at the house, including Huckaby, was questioned about the fire. Huckaby was considered a “person of interest,” but she was not arrested, Ethell said. La Palma police officers are sharing information about the fire case with the Tracy Police Department and the investigation is ongoing.

According to John Hughes, Huckaby’s Uncle, Melissa moved in with the Lawless’s in Orchard Estates 10 months ago. In November of 2008, Huckaby was sentenced to 3 years probation and mandatory participation in a Mental Health program for a petty theft conviction in San Joaquin County. Huckaby’s counselors felt she was making progress, was taking psychotropic medications, and were ready to proceed to her next appearance on April 3rd; which she missed.

One thing that seems to be clear in the last several years of Ms. Huckaby’s life, there are several flags that even to a layman, would bring cause for concern, putting it mildly. What I find again in Sandra’s case, is the brutally preventable death of a child.

I am not suggesting that grandparents are responsible for their children’s actions as they are parenting their grandchildren.

CaseyMelissaCompare-1However, it cant be lost on anyone that Huckaby’s daughter was wisked away to Cypress the day after Sandra went missing .

What prompted that decision? At what point when the parents of an individual demonstrating overt wrecklessness with their children are the grandparents obligated to come forward and report them to CFS?

In this case, I would offer a woman being investigated for arson, convicted of theft, and on psych meds worthy of an intervention of some kind. In the three largest missing children’s cases in recent history: Caylee Marie Anthony, Haleigh Cummings and Sandra Cantu, there is one glaring common denominator. Their grandparents were AWARE of behavior on behalf of their child that put their grandchildren or in this case, someone’s else’s child at risk.


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  1. Introspect says:

    Other than Melissa herself, I believe the key to understanding MH’s past and her current crimes can be found with Brett Lawless. Why was his daughter contemplating suicide as early as the sixth grade? What happened?

    I agree with the question, but Melissa’s dad is Brian, fyi

  2. sweetpea says:

    Agreed, I also question the validity to how long MH was gone. Still 4 hours with the other little girl is a long time. It is also possible that things happened to the little girl that did not necessarily leave phyical evidence, i.e. photos, ect.

    I guess I would also like to know when she began taking the medications that were perscribed by the court appointed mental health
    pyschs. and if they had been recently changed. Which is not uncommon.

  3. Tams says:

    Appears most everyone here is becoming of the same mind as more and more background is revealed on MH, her family, the ‘church’, the MHP community, and LE. So very many insightful, unifying comments & thoughts from everyone here. Pieces of the puzzle are beginning to fit together, as are relationships between people & events.

    I can only hope that the FBI is way ahead of us all here (and not inept or corrupt as other LE are appearing to be!) and able to root out all other predators/criminals involved. Accountability on all levels -familial, legal, and social- needs to be demanded. No more hiding behind explanations, excuses, religion, or badges. Whatever this ‘something bigger’ is, it needs to end now.

    So perfectly expressed by Gypsy DD in Post #49:
    “We all stand accountable for our young they newborn or 17 years old…no looking away….the children are our future..look at what we are harvesting.”

    How can we as a society possibly tolerate any more crimes against our children that could have been prevented?

  4. Ralien 7 says:

    Blink –
    Your last comment is intriguing. If she was gone for more than an hour – wouldn’t LE have been able to corroborate Grandma’s statement with the same video surveillance that captured Sandra’s last care free moments? The shortest route from the Lawless home to the exit would take her right by the camera. It is likely LE could even determine if there was an occupant seated. They would, and I believe they did. When they stated the surveillance footage was edited, I believe it will show Huckaby’s car at some point, if not on another camera.
    Are you suggesting Grandma didn’t make that statement or, she was providing cover and therefore involved to some degree? I am of the opinion the Lawless’s are hiding something, or are lying by omission at this point.
    This line of thinking leads me to the following.

    If she readily provided LE with a story about the stolen suitcase on the evening of the disappearance (not the same as filing a report, which is all LE reports), then this must have been premeditated. There was/is no filed report with LE as to the luggage. I believe she mentioned the luggage when she was approached by LE; the date of which is unclear. However, we first learned of the luggage’s connection to the church the day Sandra was recovered 4/6 by Fred Williams.
    She must have figured the suitcase would eventually be found and provided herself some cover and knowing that LE would have corroborated this account with her grandparents. So we are left with she either staged the theft and used her grandparents as unwitting stooges, or they are involved to some degree having corroborated a false story. This kind of sophisticated planning and execution just doesn’t seem to jive with her m.o..

    On the other hand it makes much more sense and IMO more likely the suitcase was never mentioned at this point in the investigation. MH had no reason to say anything, other than what could have been confirmed by Grandma Lawless, her daughter and Sandra’s sister. Thus, as reported early on – Sandra was not at the home because she had shooed Sandra away at 3:00 pm and never saw her again. She ran an errand at the church and returned a short time later. All could be confirmed easily and everything appeared as it should.

    And this doesn’t make sense either. She had just committed one of the rarest, most vicious crimes in modern times. A crime that by all indications has exposed a deep, raw, nerve in the American psyche. How was she able to comport herself over the next 10 days without drawing any more attention to herself?
    Her daughter was sent to her Grams in Cypress on 3/27 or 3/28. She attempted suicide on 4/6/09, the day Sandra was recovered and was released the day she was arrested. I think you’ll agree she did not comport herself.
    In November she was arrested for shoplifting and acted so weird she was ordered into mental health counseling. She was reported to be doing fine until she missed the April 3 hearing. Again, this don’t make sense man.

    The reports of the last several days show she has deep and serious problems, but a sophisticated, deviant criminal mind in our midst: it’s not happening for me. IMO, when she has her melt down upon hearing the news that Sandra has been found in her black suitcase, she acts more like someone who did not know Sandra was dead before the news and the full weight of which she is involved with came crashing down on her at once. Just thinking.

    Thanks for the best forum for info/opinion exchange
    on the net.
    TY Kindly, we are lucky the compassionate and really smart hang out here :)

  5. Ralien 7 says:

    Not sure if that was meant for me – but TY anyway and TY to your contributors too.

    A few other things I have been mulling over. Under the premise “where there is smoke, there is fire”, the caretaker would seem to be a veritable burning bush. Do you think it was his bungling of the “stolen suitcase” story that compelled her to come forward, or was it something else?

    In any case, the caretaker has got to be twisting in the wind right now. Since, LE is on the record now saying MH’s stolen suitcase story is a lie, then it would follow his account is a lie of lie. In addition, to the other peculiarities you have pointed out…..?

    Finally, it is reported in several other news sources, that the Sinclair chap dated MH, or was boyfriend or both (with all due respect to the earlier posting disputing those accounts). I ran across a quote on one of the networks from him stating he lived with his wife and her children in his parent’s home. Am I seeing red flags and fireworks here? It would explain LE reluctance to follow through.

    thank you

    I am way hinky on Williams, for more reasons than I have already reported. The biggest flag for me was the bs story about the rummage sale/luggage on it’s way there. The house in Tracy is not his only real estate. That’s all for now on him.

  6. Ralien 7 says:

    Thanks for your response. Understood.

    Ya know…that suicide attempt went down the night (10 days after) the news was announced about Sandra being found.

    Secondly, has LE independently confirmed the whereabouts of her daughter and when exactly she was whisked away. All I can remember is the statement her Uncle made and then later the ex. But we find this out only after the arrest.

    So, I maintain, the 10 days between the disappearance and the discovery, she seemed pretty invisible. I am sure LE has pieced together by now her activities, cell records and what not- but it is odd nonetheless how quiet she was, and then to just completely fall apart.

    Last thing that has bugged me and then I wont take any more time or space – Regarding Madison, “She is in A safe place” has been repeated several times and just sounds to much like witness protection.

    Again, red flags waving?

  7. Escaped from Cypress says:

    I have had the unfortunate and horrible experience of living in Cypress California for approx. 18 years. It is a horrible place.
    Sure it may look okay from the outside, but dig a little deeper and you will find horrible people who hide behind their money and appearances, and an extremely corrupt and hateful police department, despised by even other Orange County Police Departments.
    Our family suffered terrible abuse from the police there, although I have no criminal record whatsoever. We became one of the poorer families in town, and we looked Mexican. The police said terrible things to me about being Mexican. I was too afraid to correct them – I am Italian.
    I do not condone anything this woman (MH) did. But I have no doubt she was raped by the PD there. They covered up sooo much. But if we called them, as when we were burglarized, they did not do a thing – perceived us as lowlifes because of our income and skin color.
    I have told very few people what certain officers there put me through. I will take much to my grave. I will never tell not out of shame, but fear. I left, escaped if you will – moved 2,000 miles away to a state I had never been to. After three years of therapy I am fine. This state pays for therapy if you are under a certain income (I was raising children completely alone), California does not. I sought therapy because of the fear I felt.
    EVERY DAY I look outside and I thank God that I am away from there. I am a very educated person, and sane. Dealing with the Cypress PD, well it is like a gang. I would trust a gang member more than one of their officers. They were just horrible. I had a gun put to my head for nothing. I used to have nightmares about Cypress. Praise God my children grew up here with the values here (not judged on monetary worth, and even LESS racist).
    The state I am living in now is thought of as a “redneck” state, or at the very least much less sophisticated than California. The police here have shown nothing but kindness and repect. I have called them over lost livestock, etc. Always kind. I thank them for being the way they are and let them know how much I respect and appreciate them.
    I don’t want to say anymore, but there is more …. there are alot of secrets with that department.

    God Bless. Religion is not the problem, it is the evil nature of man.

  8. Cindy says:

    I just can’t believe that they LE didn’t take the first case seriously. Just cause the Mom showed up with alcohol, they dismissed her as “trailor trash”. They should have listened to the Mother of this seven year old, when she told them to look at MH when Sandra came up missing. This Mother stated that MH did’t have permission to take her daughter. But, they blew her off. Maybe she is irresponsible but, drugging a child/kidnapping?? MH should have been the first interview.

  9. Jaelin says:

    I haven’t heard anything further on the blinds that were reported to have been taking during one of the search warrants. Blink, do you know and/or can you comment on anything regarding them? Also makes me wonder if her poor little body was bound in that suitcase.

  10. martha mann says:

    dear escaped from Cypress—-seems like both police departments need to checked out big time. and to see what happened with mh in police custody. if melissa’s child is in that town someone should make sure she is safe. should she be with melissa’s mother at all.

    i am very sorry for what happened to you.

  11. RubyRose says:

    Wow!!! Just reading over old posts trying to get up to speed on the MH case in light of the new plea.

    I can not believe what I just read from the post above by zuleth. Did this person really ask you (blink) to put a picture up of Sandra in the suitcase so it (zuleth) could see how it looks!!!!!

    I hope this person was banned forever from posting here at BOC.

  12. Jebz says:

    Wow, obviously, zuleth, is some 12 year old kid, or ignorant foreigner who can’t spell or write sentences in English. You’re an idiot.

    I try to be fair to allow different perspectives, that said, I just deleted the posts after re-reading.

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