It’s been seven months since 8-year-old Sandra Cantu went missing from her Tracy, California home. The last images of the pretty little girl, captured on video, show Sandra joyfully skipping through the trailer park where she lived. A week later her body was found stuffed in a suitcase and tossed into a drainage pond and Melissa Huckaby was arrested for Sandra’s kidnapping, rape with a foreign object, and murder.
San Francisco attorney Michael Burt has now joined Sam Baher for the defense. Burt is considered highly qualified as a death penalty attorney and has defended several high profile criminals including Lyle Menedez, Charles Ng, “Night Stalker" Richard Ramirez as well as others. Michael Burt’s resume may be found here. Burt’s fees will be paid from a special fund from the Public Defender’s Office.
In a hearing Friday, Sam Baher motion to dismiss the indictment against Huckaby as well as a motion to suppress evidence were ordered sealed by Judge Linda Lofthus as they contain information from the grand jury transcripts.
Prior to the hearing, Behar met privately with the judge and Lofthus told prosecutor Thomas Testa, “I’m very pleased to reveal this. Mr. Behar is making tremendous progress.” She also noted that Behar’s other cases are done and he is now working 24/7 on the Huckaby case.
Testa, who has been repeatedly frustrated by the defense delay tactics was unimpressed and said, “Unlike Mr. Behar, I do have other cases, other special circumstances cases that are percolating.”
It had been expected that Loftus would set a trial date during Friday's hearing however, Michael Burt was unavailable, and Huckaby’s public defender, Sam Behar, said he didn't feel comfortable going forward without him.
There will be another status hearing on December 4 and - as we have heard many times in the past - a trail date is expected to be set. Behar said Burt would be present for the hearing and will “be able to provide enough information” to choose a trial date.
A hearing on the motion to suppress evidence will be held February 12.
While Huckaby is entitled to a proper defense as our justice system dictates, I can’t help but believe that for Sandra’s family the lengthy wait for justice and closure must seem interminable.