When I picked up a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle the other day, my eye was immediately drawn to her.
Staring back up at me from her mug shot at the top of the front page was the young woman with a wan face, curly brown hair and sad blue eyes who has been all over the news for the past two weeks: none other than the notorious Melissa Huckaby.
I then noted the accompanying headline, which stated that the woman accused of kidnapping and killing an 8-year-old Tracy girl had had a rape charge added to her sentence.
This news boggled my already boggled mind even further. I had learned while watching the evening news several days earlier that Huckaby was arrested and charged with the heinous crime committed against Sandra Cantu. I also learned that Huckaby lived right down the street from her estranged victim, who was her daughter’s friend and playmate. Not only that, but Huckaby’s grandfather was the pastor of a local church, where Huckaby herself taught Sunday school. The idea that Huckaby of all people could have committed such a crime was unthinkable; then to find out that they now think she raped the little girl with a foreign object somewhere along the way? I just can’t wrap my head around it.
Reports do show that the vast majority of violent crimes against children are committed by men, but the fact that the suspected killer is female is not the real reason I find this case so puzzling and sad.
Take the fact Huckaby’s daughter was Sandra’s friend. Seriously, who kills their daughter’s playmate? My own friends’ mothers have always been good, honest, caring women whom my mother has trusted to watch over me and keep me safe whenever I’m with them. When I was younger, many of them treated me like another daughter. I can’t imagine any of those mothers committing an act so horrible against me, but I am constantly reminded that the people who kidnap, rape, and kill are often the people we’ve known our whole lives. They’re the people we trust the most. It’s a really scary truth to face.
The scariest part though, to me, is that she was a pastor’s daughter and taught Sunday school at his church every week. Having been a churchgoer all my life and having gone to the same church for 13 of my 20 years, I can honestly say that the people I fellowship with every Sunday are like my second family. You’re supposed to be able to trust your church community more than you trust most other people because they truly believe that you should love one another, and they try to live that belief to the fullest every day. You’d think such a community would be the very last one in which a member would murder one of their own.
I think the real reason this scares me so much is that my own relationships with the people I look up to and trust are the most important things in the world to me and I tend to invest a LOT in them (perhaps too much, at times). I love deeply, trust completely and struggle more when I have to say goodbye than I do at just about any other time in my life. I’ve often said that life would be so much easier if I didn’t care so darn much!
When I really, really love someone, I stand firm in the belief that they would never, ever intentionally do anything to hurt me. I doubt that little Sandra Cantu of Tracy ever imagined that Melissa Huckaby could, or would, do something like this to her.
Melissa Huckaby’s picture on the cover of that Chronicle is a great big reality check for me, but it’s also a testament to the importance and value of the people we can really trust, because they’re fewer and far between than we may think.
– Kelsey Lindquist, junior