Report Of Man At Pond Where Sandra Cantu Found

By: Terry Collins, Associated Press Email
By: Terry Collins, Associated Press Email

TRACY, Calif. (AP) - A local resident says he saw a man "acting real strange" at an irrigation pond three days before eight-year-old Sandra Cantu's body was found in a suitcase pulled from the water.

After the gruesome discovery, Stockton police cadet Stephen Memory, 19, said he spoke to the FBI about what he saw.

Memory reported that he thought it was odd to see a beige Chevrolet Silverado truck parked on the shoulder of the road facing in the wrong direction on the afternoon of April 3. Sandra's body was found April 6.

The driver - a white man in his late 40s or early 50s wearing a white baseball cap and gray T-shirt - appeared to be looking down at the ditch beside the road, said Memory, who lives with his parents and sister at a house near the pond. Only four or five cars travel the remote road, which is a dead end, on a typical day, he noted.

"He was acting real strange," Memory said Friday of the driver. "I drove by real slow to get a good look at him. He looked at me real quick and then he turned away. I just kept going."

The FBI referred questions to Tracy police. Sgt. Tony Sheneman said Friday he was not aware of Memory's report and declined to comment on specifics of the pending investigation.

No suspects have been named in the case, but police have said the department has fielded nearly 1,500 tips, ranging from useful information to some absurd leads, in the search for Sandra's killer. Sheneman said "the investigation is heading in the right direction," but refused to give details.

On Friday, Sheneman also announced a $32,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Meanwhile, a Sunday school teacher who lives in the mobile home complex where Sandra went missing told the Tracy Press that her black suitcase recently was stolen from her driveway.

Melissa Huckaby, 28, is the granddaughter of Pastor Clifford Lawless, who was questioned by police for three hours the night Sandra's body was found and whose Clover Road Baptist Church has been the subject of a police search. Lawless has denied involvement in Sandra's disappearance, and police say he's not at the center of their investigation.

Huckaby, who says Sandra visited her home the day she disappeared to ask if she could play with Huckaby's daughter, told the Press she left her suitcase in the driveway March 27 but forgot about it; when she went back for it, it was gone. She said she's spoken to authorities but doesn't know if her missing suitcase matches the one that held the girl's body.

Sheneman declined to comment on her story, only saying that there was no police report filed on a missing suitcase.

A call to Huckaby by The Associated Press was not immediately returned.

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