TRACY — A Southern California woman is in a dispute with Tracy police over whether her psychic predictions helped them solve the Sandra Cantu murder case.
She thinks she's entitled to at least a portion of the reward money, totaling more than $30,000, but Tracy police say they never used any information provided by any psychics during the investigation.
Dani Pedlow, based in Los Angeles, said she predicted the little girl would be found in a "barranca—" a Spanish word for canyon or ravine — and that she was killed in a church, and the killer was someone in the trailer park the little girl called home.
Pedlow said she helps solve crimes for a living and recently helped find a Las Vegas runaway and described on a New York radio show how police would capture a serial killer.
She was contacted by a local resident who is also one of her clients.
"At the time, I hadn't ever been to Tracy and wasn't even quite sure where it was,'' Pedlow said. "I texted and e-mailed her from Las Vegas. I told her I see a barranca. I talked about a church. I told her I see the church straight across from the park, and I see water, sand and gravel. I had the sense of something being dragged.''
Although there is no park near the Clover Road Baptist Church, which was searched as part of the investigation, behind it is a large, open grassy field.
Melissa Huckaby, 28, of Tracy, has been charged with murdering 8-year-old Sandra Cantu, and with enhancements — kidnapping, lewd or lascivious acts on a child and rape by a foreign object — she could face the death penalty if convicted.
Huckaby lived with her grandparents, who operate the church, which is near the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park, only a few doors down from Cantu.
Sources have said the girl appears to have been murdered in a crawl space underneath the church, where investigators also found a pair of gloves. Sandra, who was last seen around 4 p.m. March 27 on videotape surveillance captured in front of her home, was found 10 days later stuffed into a suitcase that floated to the surface of a retaining pond at a local dairy.
Police said a farmworker at the dairy noticed the suitcase and notified authorities.
"We never reviewed or utilized any information from a psychic during this investigation,'' Tracy police Sgt. Tony Sheneman said.
Huckaby publicly admitted the suitcase the girl was found in belonged to her but said it was stolen from her driveway the day Sandra disappeared. She's scheduled to return to court May 22 for further arraignment.
Pedlow delivered a letter with her contact information to Tracy police explaining why she believes she's entitled to the reward money. She said police told her they hadn't decided who to give the reward money to, but no one has ever called her, not even from the Tracy Crimestoppers, the nonprofit organization that offers rewards to people who help solve local crimes.
"It sounds like subterfuge," Pedlow said. "They put the brakes on. No one would respond. I understand because I live in Los Angeles, but one sentence about not having made up their minds sounds to me like they are trying to distance themselves from me."
Scott Webb, executive director of the Modesto-based Sund/Carrington Foundation, said it is paying a little more than $20,000 to the anonymous tipster who found the suitcase April 6 just off of Whitehall Road north of Tracy.
Webb said the organization has never paid any psychic reward money in the more than 40 cases it has helped solve.
"Tracy police has identified an individual who was responsible for (Sandra's) recovery," Webb said. "We had several large donations, but we've been receiving cards, letters and financial support from all over the country. I think the community should know they've been very helpful in this situation. Many other families are going through the same thing, and they don't get the same amount of attention.''
Reach Mike Martinez at 209-832-3947 or firstname.lastname@example.org.