STOCKTON -- In a surprise move Melissa Huckaby pleaded guilty Monday to the murder of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu.
Huckaby pleaded guilty to murder with a special circumstance of kidnapping. All other charges against her in the case were dropped.
San Joaquin County Superior Court officials say Melissa Huckaby of Tracy entered the surprise plea in a hearing Monday morning.
The 29-year-old former Sunday School teacher was accused of killing Sandra, who was last seen alive on March 27, 2009.
After a 10-day search, the girl's body was found in a black suitcase in a pond not far from the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park, where the second-grader and Huckaby were neighbors.
Tracy police arrested Huckaby on April 10, 2009.
A San Joaquin County grand jury indicted the mother on murder with three enhancements -- kidnapping, lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14 and rape by instrument -- in connection with Sandra's death.
A second count charged Huckaby with a sex crime with a child 10 years or younger.
Huckaby was a Sunday school teacher at Sandra's grandfather's small church.
Sandra was also a playmate of Huckaby's young daughter.
Authorities believe Sandra was killed in the church, which is next to the trailer park where both Huckaby and the girl's family live.
Assistant Court Executive Officer Sharon Morris says Huckaby faces a sentence of 25 years to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Huckaby is scheduled for sentencing June 14.
Huckaby Pleads Guilty to Murder of 8-year old Sandra Cantu
Sandra Cantu's body was found stuffed in a suitcase in a pond in April 2009.
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