Monday, April 13, 2009

Former Express Intern Helps Crack Tracy Murder Case

By Robert Gammon
Mon, Apr 13, 2009 at 10:16 AM

Jennifer Wadsworth, a reporter for the Tracy Press and former intern at the East Bay Express, helped solve the murder case of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu. An exclusive interview by Wadsworth with murder suspect Melissa Huckaby helped homicide investigators turn their attention to the Sunday school teacher. Wadsworth's interview, according to the Chron, exposed inconsistencies between what Huckaby told her and what she told police. Wadsworth's story prompted police to reinterview Huckaby, and then arrest her for murdering Cantu, who lived nearby.

Wadsworth focused on Huckaby after hearing that Cantu's dead body had been stuffed into a suitcase belonging to Huckaby's family. So Wadsworth called Huckaby last Friday and Huckaby told her that her suitcase had been stolen the same day as Cantu disappeared, strangely adding that the suitcase was waterproof. The 8-year-old's body was found in the suitcase after it was dumped into a pond. After Wadsworth posted a story of her interview with Huckaby on the Tracy Press' website, TV reporters called Huckaby (who apparently is a pathological liar) and she then spoke of allegedly finding a note after Cantu disappeared, claiming it must have been from the killer. Later that night, police booked Huckaby herself on murder charges.

The importance of Wadsworth's gumshoe reporting should not be taken for granted - and we're not just saying that because she interned at the Express in spring 2008. Police may not have focused on the Sunday school teacher if it hadn't been for Wadsworth. The reason is that the vast majority of child abductions and killings are committed by men, and so investigators were targeting male suspects. In fact, police even questioned Cantu's own father, and Huckaby's 77-year-old grandfather, who is the church pastor. Huckaby, who just doesn't fit the profile of a child murderer, apparently was not the prime suspect, and may never have been if it weren't for the 22-year-old Wadsworth.

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