Sandra Cantu's Alleged Killer a 'Good Mom,' Says Ex

Sandra Cantu's Alleged Killer a 'Good Mom,' Says Ex
Sandra Cantu
Landov

updated 04/17/2009 at 04:00 PM EDT

originally published 04/17/2009 04:40PM

The Sunday school teacher charged with killing 8-year-old Sandra Cantu of Tracy, Calif., and stuffing her body in a suitcase was a good mom to her 5-year-old daughter – and didn't seem capable of hurting anyone, Melissa Huckaby's ex-husband told Good Morning America on Friday.

"My initial reaction was shock and complete disbelief," said Johnny Huckaby, who has been divorced from Melissa Huckaby since Sept. 2005, two years after they married. "It's not something you want to think anyone possibly [is capable] of doing – let alone somebody that you knew. And that's a mother of your child."

For the sake of their daughter, Madison, Johnny Huckaby, 26, hopes that the charges against Melissa, 28, of rape with a foreign object, kidnapping and murder prove untrue. Melissa has not yet entered a plea; her arraignment is April 24.

"I do not want my daughter growing up with that type of legacy to look forward to," Johnny Huckaby said on GMA.

Melissa Huckaby Suffered from Depression

He says he never saw any indication Melissa could hurt herself, although she took medication for depression and "she had issues with her self-persona, who she saw herself as." According to various media reports, she was hospitalized after Sandra's disappearance, following a suicide attempt by swallowing razor blades.

Johnny Huckaby says that, as far as he knew, Melissa was "a good mom" to their daughter, although because Melissa is now being held without bail, he is seeking custody.

Sandra Cantu disappeared March 27 at the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park. Melissa – a neighbor and the granddaughter of the local pastor – told reporters and police that Sandra played that day with Madison, and that the suitcase in which Sandra's lifeless body was discovered on April 6 in an agricultural pond had been stolen from her.

Roughly 6,000 mourners packed into a high school gym, cafeteria and stadium on Thursday for a memorial where the second-grader was remembered as the farming city's adopted angel – a cheerful, brown-eyed girl with a generous smile who loved Hannah Montana and Disneyland.

During the service, Sandra's aunt, Angie Chavez, read a poem as Sandra's mother, Maria Chavez, sat in the front row, trembling and clutching her surviving children:

"She had the biggest heart, full of love/And she was eager to share that love/She had arms of an angel, gently giving you a hug/When she told you 'I love you,' on your heart she would tug/ She may have been small, but she was bigger than life/Our sorrow and grief cuts us like a knife."

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