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Sunday School Teacher/Preacher Kills 8 year old girl

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04/12/2009 01:03 AM
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Sunday School Teacher/Preacher Kills 8 year old girl
Melissa Huckaby perp...

Huckaby is the granddaughter of a pastor who lives at the mobile home park. The suspect had claimed that a suitcase belonging to her had disappeared on March 27, the same day Sandra disappeared.

The little girl went missing after telling her mother she was going to a friend's home to play. The last official sighting of her was on a surveillance video taped that afternoon, showing her skipping merrily outside her home.

Huckaby's arrest followed a weeklong focus on vehicles and property associated with her family.

Over the past week, police searched Clover Road Baptist Church, on West Clover Road about a quarter-mile from the park, as well as a shed on the property. Investigators also questioned its pastor, Lane Lawless, who is Huckaby's grandfather, and seized a phone and computer belonging to Lawless and his wife, Connie.

Connie Lawless has said that they welcomed the police scrutiny and that investigators were probably interested in them because Sandra played with their 5-year-old great-granddaughter. Connie Lawless was elected to San Joaquin Valley's Republican Central Committee in 2006 and lost a re-election bid two years later, according to the county registrar of voters.

The couple did not immediately return a phone call for comment today.

Huckaby had previously said that Sandra visited her home on the day of her disappearance to play with her daughter. But Huckaby told the Tracy Press that she had turned Sandra away because her daughter needed to pick up her toys and Sandra went to another friend's home.

Huckaby told several reporters Friday that she had left her Eddie Bauer suitcase in the driveway that day, and that it was missing. She claimed that she later found a note that had the words "suitcase" and "water," as well as the street near the irrigation pond where she was found.

The Tracy Press also reported that Huckaby was released Thursday from Sutter Tracy Community Hospital, where she spent several days in intensive care for what she described as "internal bleeding." Huckaby declined to elaborate to the newspaper.

Debi McComber, 37, a longtime resident of the mobile home park, said this morning that she and her neighbors were stunned by the arrest of Huckaby, whom she described as a seemingly normal and "nice" parent who mostly kept to herself.

"It's a shocker - I can't believe it," said McComber, a teacher in the Tracy school system. "The town will be shocked and relieved in the same breath - relieved that there's not some serial killer out there molesting kids. But it still doesn't bring Sandra back."

McComber added, "She was right down the road and we couldn't stop it. That's what's heartbreaking. I don't know what her motive would be to take her. Why would you take someone else's kid? She had her own kid."

McComber said she recalled first meeting Huckaby at the mobile home park's swimming pool last summer, after Huckaby and her 5-year-old daughter moved into Lawless' mobile home.

"I would have never suspected it," McComber said. "She has a daughter, a 5-year-old daughter. Everybody's wondering what was the motive."

McComber said video footage released by police shows Sandra turning toward Huckaby's mobile home.

"No wonder why Sandra went looking that way," she said. "That's where they live. The house is down that way."

E-mail the writers at hlee@sfchronicle.com and dbulwa@sfchronicle.com.

[link to www.sfgate.com]