Monday, May 10, 2010

Sandra Cantu Killer Confesses: And Lots of Folks are Hurting

Sandra Cantu was eight years old a little over a year ago. Then someone killed her, stuffed her in a suitcase and dumped her body in an irrigation pond. She was found 10 days later.

The case is in the news again. The chief suspect, Melissa Huckaby, pleaded guilty. Quite possibly to save her own life.

There are a lot of hurting people in Tracy, California right now, starting with Sandra Cantu's parents. They could use prayer. Like I said, just a suggestion.

I've said this several times before: Murder isn't nice, and we shouldn't do it. I'll get back to that idea.

Here's a sample of what's been in the news today, about Sandra Cantu and her murderer:
"Melissa Huckaby, who killed 8-year-old Sandra Cantu in 2009, pleads guilty to avoid death penalty" (May 10, 2010)

"The monster mom accused of kidnapping, raping and murdering her 8-year-old neighbor entered a surprise guilty plea Monday to avoid the death penalty.

"Melissa Huckaby, 29, admitted she killed Sandra Cantu in April 2009 before the girl's tiny corpse was found stuffed in a suitcase in an irrigation ditch near her Tracy, Calif., home.

"A Sunday school teacher who lived with her own daughter in the same mobile home park as Sandra, Huckaby also was accused of drugging a 7-year-old girl with a muscle relaxant prior to Sandra's murder.

"In exchange for her guilty plea to murder with a special circumstance of kidnapping, prosecutors dropped the rape and drugging charges and agreed not to seek the death penalty...."
I think I understand's position. They're in the business of selling advertising space - and "monster mom" articles dripping with gut-wrenching emotion do attract viewers: somewhat in the manner of a dead muskrat attracting flies.

I'm going to take a less fevered approach. Not because I think murdering a little girl is no big deal, or because I feel sorry for Sandra Cantu's killer.

In my opinion, there's a plenty big emotional charge in this situation to begin with. I'll occasionally pour oil on troubled fires - but not jet fuel on a five-alarm blaze.

If there's any doubt - I'll say this again. Murder is not nice. We shouldn't do it. The fact is, murder is a bad thing to do. Very bad.

So, why aren't I venting self-righteous fury on the "monster mom?" Here's part of the explanation, from a post about another appalling crime and its perpetrator:
I'm Not Allowed to Judge Pardo
I have no way of knowing what was going on inside Bruce Jeffrey Pardo's head this Christmas Eve. And I have no business passing judgment on him. That's God's job, not mine. As the Catechism1 puts it, "although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God." (1861)

So, I am allowed to discuss Mr. Pardo's acts, and express opinions about whether they were naughty or nice.
Murder Isn't Nice, and You Shouldn't do it
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that human life is sacred (2258), and says: "Do not slay the innocent and the righteous." (2261) It follows that you're not supposed to kill your wife - or husband - even if you're in a bad mood.
("Psycho Santa's Slaying Spree - The Catholic Connection" (December 26, 2008))
The other news stories about the Sandra Cantu trial were comparatively bland. Some of the blog posts - but I'm not touching that: not today, maybe not at all.
"Guilty plea in death of 8-year-old"
CNN (May 10, 2010)

"A former Sunday School teacher pleaded guilty to murder Monday in the death of an 8-year-old girl, a court official said.

"Melissa Huckaby pleaded guilty in the death of Sandra Cantu, a friend of her daughter's who disappeared in Tracy, California, in March 2009.

"Her body was found about 10 days later in a suitcase submerged in a pond on a dairy farm.

"Prosecutors had charged Huckaby with murder, kidnapping, lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14, and rape by instrument. They were seeking the death penalty...."
That there's a good chance that Sandra Cantu's killer will be sentenced to 25 years, with no possibility of parole? I think it's a start.

Melissa Huckaby hasn't hit 30 yet. She was 28 when she killed Sandra Cantu, she's 29 now. If her sentence runs 25 years, she'll be in her early 50s when she's back in circulation.

It's possible that a quarter-century time out will have given her an opportunity to reevaluate her priorities. Little girls and her boyfriends may not be in any particular danger then. People can change.

On the other hand, somewhere around 2035, another little girl may get killed.

It's a little hard to figure out why Sandra Cantu was killed. There's still nothing but speculation in the news that I've seen.

One more excerpt from the news:
"Former Teacher Pleads Guilty to Murdering Girl"
The Associated Press, via FOXNews (May 10, 2010)

"A California Sunday school teacher accused of kidnapping, raping and killing an 8-year-old playmate of her daughter, then stuffing the body in a suitcase, pleaded guilty Monday to murder.

"Melissa Huckaby, 29, entered the guilty plea in San Joaquin County Superior Court to a charge of first-degree murder with a special circumstance of kidnapping.

"As part of a deal with prosecutors, all other charges -- including two involving rape and lewd or lascivious conduct with a child under 14 -- were dropped, according to Assistant Court Executive Officer Sharon Morris.

"The initial charges in the grand jury indictment last year would have made her eligible for the death penalty if convicted. Her trial had been set to begin in October.

"Morris said Huckaby now faces a sentence of 25 years to life in prison without the possibility of parole when she's sentenced June 14...."

"...Huckaby also had been charged with previously drugging a 7-year-old girl and a 37-year-old man, whom police believe she had been dating. Those charges also were dropped in the plea deal.

"During Monday's hearing, Judge Linda Lofthus maintained the gag order that she had imposed in the case last year, according to Tracy police spokesman Tony Sheneman...."
Even if she's released after the minimum 25 years, I don't think Melissa Huckaby should be allowed to run a daycare center. Actually, given the circumstances, I'm not at all convinced that it's safe to let her mix with people.

I don't think capital punishment is a good idea, either. I might, if the Supreme Court of the United States of America could duplicate the "Lazarus, come out!" process, reconsider. Besides, I've read of enough cases where an 'obvious' guilty verdict was reversed. (More in "Capital Punishment: Killing Those Who Deserve to Die" (October 2, 2008) - particularly Catholic Teaching on Capital Punishment: 'It Depends')

How Can I Defend Melissa Huckaby?

I don't. At this point, it looks like she killed a little girl: and that it wasn't, strictly speaking, a one-off incident. If Sandra Cantu's killer isn't restrained, I think the odds are very good that more people will die.

How Can I not Be Moved by a Woman Deprived of Her Freedom?

I am moved. Melissa Huckaby was created in the image of God, just as I was. From the looks of it, she's going to miss out on every opportunity she might have hand, if she hadn't murdered an eight-year-old girl.

That's sad. My sympathy is more for the Huckaby family. I doubt that they're happy campers right now.

Why do I Not Call Upon a Just God to Smite the Wicked?

I haven't killed anybody, but I haven't lived a sinless life: but if I start muscling in on God's prerogative to judge us - I've got His assurance that He'll start taking a very close look at my file. That kind of trouble I don't need. Like Matthew wrote:
" 'Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you...'...."
(Matthew 7:1-2)

How Could Anybody Kill an Eight-Year-Old Girl? And Why?

One detail that's not out is why Melissa Huckaby killed Sandra Cantu. Presumably it's connected with her other destructive behavior: but that's little more than a guess.

That gag order imposed by the judge is probably a good idea: this case is enough of an emotional tornado without whatever we haven't learned being added to the mix. Public opinion shouldn't, theoretically, influence a trial - but it can.

The motive matters to Melissa Huckaby: if she's going to turn herself around, she'll have to deal with what she did and why. For me, it's more a matter of curiosity.

Blame the Parents?

I haven't seen so much of the celebrity tell-all book that was fashionable after "Mommy Dearest" hit the shelves. Can't say that I miss the things.

It's a fact: parents have an effect on their kids, for good and ill. But we're all children of somebody, and we're each responsible for our actions. Understanding why we make the choices we do may help us change - but it doesn't let us off the hook.

So: no, I'm not going to blame the senior Huckabys.

Finally, that suggestion: A lot of folks in and around Tracy, California, are hurting. They could use prayer.

Related posts:In the news:


Brigid said...

Typo alert: "I'll occasionally pout oil on troubled fires"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...


*Ouch.* Thanks! Fixed it.

The mental image I got, reading the original - uff da.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.