Search for Girl's Killer Headed in “Right Direction”

Young girl's body was found stuffed in luggage

The search for Sandra Cantu's killer is heading in the "right direction," Tracy police said Wednesday.

"I'm confident that the investigation is headed in the right direction," Police Sgt. Tony Sheneman told reporters at a morning news conference.

But, Sheneman said, they have not made any arrests and have not announced any suspects in the case.

"We feel a great deal of pressure," Sheneman added. "We want to find who is responsible for this, but we don't want to rush to judgment. We don't want anyone tried in the press. We want to identify the people who, or person who is responsible for this and develop a strong enough case that they will be brought to justice."

Police on Tuesday removed bags of evidence from a Baptist church near the home of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu, who was found dead nine days after she disappeared from her Tracy mobile home.

The pastor of Clover Road Baptist Church, Lane Lawless, has been questioned several times and says he's cooperating with investigators. He says he had nothing to do with the girl's disappearance.

Church member Fred Williams told KCRA that he believes police are wrongfully targeting the church and pastor.

"There's not one member there that would have anything to do with anything like that kind of situation," Williams said. "More people should come to church and hang out with him because they would find out what a fun loving kind of guy that he is," Williams said.

Williams also said the black suitcase Cantu was found in was reported stolen from another member of the congregation on the day Cantu disappeared. It was apparently intended for a rummage sale, according to Williams.

Meanwhile, the memorial outside Sandra Cantu's home has grown to nearly triple size in the past few days. Flowers, candles and balloons have been piling up outside the mobile home since the girl's reported disappearance.

"I hope they catch whoever did this. I lived here my whole life. I used to feel safe, but I don't anymore," said 19-year-old Melissa Landrum, who lives in the mobile home complex where Sandra Cantu was last seen alive March 27 and had known the girl since she was born.

The investigation has touched on everyone who lives in the complex, including a pastor who became a focus Tuesday. Investigators cordoned off Pastor Lane Lawless' home and Clover Road Baptist Church for a search after questioning him for three hours the night before.

Lawless and his wife, Connie, told reporters that they had been interviewed because they lived down the street from Sandra's family and their great-granddaughter often played with her. They said they had nothing to do with her disappearance.

"We're very open to them taking whatever they want today," Connie Lawless said. "We feel the more people they can eliminate, the quicker they will be able to get to the truth."

"He has been interviewed as have hundreds of people," Tracy police Sgt. Tony Sheneman said of Lawless. "Everyone that we speak to could be considered a person of interest. We have no specific person that we are looking at at this time."

Search warrants have been served for at least two other men in the girl's neighborhood since the investigation began.

Police will hold another news conference Wednesday afternoon to update the media and public on the case.

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