Posted on May 11, 2010
What are we supposed to do when the people we think we can trust with our children's safety, can't be trusted?

Stereotypically, a female Sunday School teacher seems like someone you could leave your daughter or son with.  But the tables turned for one California family.  Sandra Cantu was an eight-year-old girl living in California, and about one year ago, she went missing.  Almost ten days later, Sandra's body was found, and shortly after officials recovered her body they charged her neighbor and Sunday School teacher, Melissa Huckaby.

Huckaby is a twenty-nine year old woman who lived close to Melissa.  She also has a daughter who is just three years younger than the victim.  Huckaby lived in her grandparents' mobile home, and her grandfather was a local pastor.

The details of this case are quite disturbing.  According to the charges brought against Huckaby, the accused must have kidnapped the little girl and committed "lewd and lascivious acts with" her, including "rape with a foreign object."  In addition, a murder charge has been brought forth.  Originally, Huckaby was pleading not guilty.  If Huckaby were found guilty of the many charges brought against her--including murder in the first degree--she could have been sentenced to death.  But in lieu of new evidence, she has since amended her plea of not guilty to guilty.  Yesterday, Huckaby entered this plea and in doing so, her plea bargain will get her only twenty-five years in jail without the possibility of parole, and prosecutors will drop all other charges besides kidnapping and murder.

Up until now, few details had been available on this case because the circumstances and evidence surrounding it were on gag order, or being kept secret from the public.  For a long time, we only knew that the victim's body was found stuffed in a duffel bad.  But now we also understand the relationship between the victim and the accused.  In addition to that information, Huckaby's criminal record was relatively clean, except for two charges of arson.  Neither of which was she found guilty on.

We understand the tremendous difficulties presented by situations like these.  As parents, we almost automatically assume that is acceptable to trust our teachers and religious leaders.  But this eight-year old victim's story suggests otherwise.  We urge you to familiarize yourself with the programs and institutions that are supposed to have your child's best interest in mind.  And if you still have questions or need help, don't hesitate to call our law office.  We are committed to protecting children, and we want to see children get the justice and compensation they deserve. 

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James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.