Tears Flow at Sandra Cantu Memorial

Case has grabbed national attention

Thousands of people turned out for a memorial service for an 8-year-old Tracy girl who was found dead in a pond last week, 10 days after she disappeared from the mobile home park where she lived.

The high school gymnasium where it was held can hold 2,600 people and was filled to capacity 30 minutes ahead of the tribute to Sandra Cantu.

About 4,000 people from across the state were at the memorial to pay their respects to "Tracy's little angel."

Doors at the gymnasium opened at noon and hundreds and hundreds of people who had been waiting outside streamed inside the building.

Organizers also set up an overflow room where video of the service can bee seen.

Many wept during the nearly two hour ceremony.

The little girl was allegedly killed by Melissa Huckaby, a Sunday school teacher who was the mother of Sandra's playmate.

State Attorney General Jerry Brown and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.,  were among the speakers.

Cantu's gruesome death has shocked and terrified residents in Tracy, a city of about 78,000 people.

Several dozen people, including family, friends and some police officers who've worked on the case, gathered Wednesday for a private funeral.  A horse-drawn carriage then carried Sandra's casket to the Tracy Mausoleum, which is her final resting place.

Sandra's burial came a day after her alleged killer, 28-year-old Huckaby, was arraigned on a murder charge with the special circumstances of kidnapping and sexual assault. The woman lived down the street from the Cantu family and is the mother of one of Sandra's playmates.

Police have not said how, where or why Huckaby may have killed the little girl, whose body was found April 6 stuffed in a suitcase that was pulled from an irrigation pond about two miles from home.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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