STOCKTON, Calif. (CBS/KOVR) Sandra Cantu's family may never know why the bubbly 8-year-old was murdered and stuffed into a suitcase by Melissa Huckaby, but they may have gotten some measure of closure Monday after Huckaby was finally sentenced to spend the rest of her life in a California prison for the brutal act.
Huckaby pleaded guilty May 10 to first-degree murder in a surprise plea deal with prosecutors. Prosecutors agreed to drop the two counts of rape and lewd or lascivious conduct with a child that would have meant the death penalty if Huckaby had been convicted of all charges.
Before the judge formally sentenced her, Huckaby read a prepared statement apologizing to Sandra's family, but she acknowledged that the apology may sound hollow to Sandra's mother, according to CBS affiliate KOVR.
"It is not enough that I say that I am sorry," Huckaby said. "But that is all that I can do."
She also said that she couldn't explain why she killed little Sandra because she didn't understand it herself.
"I loved Sandra. I wish I could give you an explanation." Huckaby said, addressing Sandra's mother, Maria. "I can't understand why I did what I did."
Huckaby also thanked her family for their support throughout the investigation and leading up to her plea bargain and asked her own daughter, who was on e of Sandra's playmates, for forgiveness.
"I would like to apologize to my own daughter, who I have lost," Huckaby said. "I hope that someday you will forgive me."
Sandra's family played a slideshow depicting her short life, ending with the last photos they have of Sandra. Angie Chavez, Sandra's aunt and family spokesperson, spoke after the slideshow.
"[These] are the last images we have of [Sandra]," Chavez told the court. "the only solace we have is that [Huckaby] will never do this again."
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