TRACY, Calif. (April 7) - A few miles from the irrigation pond where the body of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu was discovered in a suitcase, authorities roped off the mobile home park where she was last seen searching for clues to her death. Police would not comment on the investigation into the death of Sandra Cantu, who was found Monday after a 10-day search, but they had previously searched several homes and towed several cars from the mobile home park where she lived.
Authorities planned an autopsy on the body to determine the cause of death. "Our heartfelt sympathies go to Sandra's family and friends," said Tracy Police Chief Janet Thiessen. "We will determine the person or persons responsible for this reprehensible act, and we will bring them to justice." Thiessen said Sandra's body wore the same clothes she was last seen wearing on March 27: a pink "Hello Kitty" T-shirt and black leggings. Sandra's disappearance sparked a massive search effort that included hundreds of volunteers and law enforcement officials, including the FBI, and more than 1,000 tips. Pictures of the girl with dark brown eyes and light brown hair were posted all over town, on business fronts, car windows and fire hydrants in this city of 78,000 about 60 miles east of San Francisco. During the search, police had characterized Sandra as a missing person but would not say whether they believed she was abducted. Investigators had refused to comment on what prompted the searches at the mobile home park or what they had found.
The suitcase was removed from the pond later in the afternoon and taken to the coroner's office, where it was opened and the little girl's body was positively identified. More than 100 mourners - some holding candles, others wiping away tears - gathered outside the mobile home park Monday night, as police blocked the entrance. "I am still in shock," said Brandy Robles, 27, who held her 2-year-old son. "You see this in the movies. I never thought it would be real life - real to me."