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05.25.09

A Huckaby-Porn Biz Connection?

Former sex crimes prosecutor Wendy Murphy says the new drugs charges against Melissa Huckaby could be related to the pornography business—and that the accused child killer is exactly the type of weak woman child pornographers seek to exploit.

New charges have been lodged against accused child killer Melissa Huckaby, alleging that she drugged two people earlier this year—including her 36-year-old ex-boyfriend and her daughter’s 7-year-old friend.

Here’s why, despite the fact that one of the new charges involves an adult male victim, I still believe the motive for the murder of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu, whom Huckaby is accused of killing, is likely related to child porn.

Blood tests revealed the child Huckaby allegedly drugged had been given benzos, a class of drugs commonly used in the child porn business to sedate victims and inhibit memory.

Contrary to news accounts referring to the victims as having been “poisoned,” the 7-year-old was actually sedated with benzodiazepines. We know this because her mother took her to the hospital in January, after Huckaby took the girl on a playdate at a nearby park—and the mother became suspicious when she could not locate her daughter for four hours. Blood tests revealed the child had been given benzos, a class of drugs commonly used in the child porn business to sedate victims and inhibit memory so that when the drug wears off, the child can’t report that she was abused because she has no memory of the event.

Not surprisingly, the 7-year-old apparently said nothing about being photographed or molested—cops did nothing to examine her for evidence of abuse until months later, after Cantu’s body was discovered and sex crimes charges were filed against Huckaby, 28.

I’ll admit it’s a bit funky to sedate a grown man if you’re doing child porn, but the guy was reportedly at Huckaby’s home at the time he was drugged, two months after the 7-year-old girl, which means if there was something going on there and they didn’t want him to know about it, knocking the guy out is a good way to keep him quiet. And who knows whether something creepy happened to him when he was unconscious? Most mainstream pornographers don’t touch child porn, but the nuts who hurt kids are sick enough to take advantage of anyone if there’s money to be made.

Here’s another reason to suspect that child porn is the story behind the story.

Huckaby’s attorney asked for more time last week so he could review more than 1,000 pages of discovery, as well as evidence taken from a computer in the home that Huckaby shared with her grandparents.

Few types of criminal cases involve evidence seized from computer files because most crimes have nothing to do with computers. On the other hand, almost all child porn cases involve evidence seized from computer files, as well as reams of other evidence—the nature of the crime is such that networks of people tend to be involved, which means lots of witnesses are interviewed and many search warrants are executed.

A reasonable person might wonder why prosecutors would bother to add a couple of relatively minor charges to a murder case. Prosecutors can’t just tack on unrelated charges when they feel like it. If they discover next week that Huckaby committed an unrelated bank robbery two years ago, they can’t just attach it to the murder case. They could bring separate charges, but they couldn’t handle them all as one big prosecution.

So it’s fair to say prosecutors believe the new charges are related and that they intend to prove not only that Huckaby was engaged in an ongoing pattern of criminal conduct but that it all ties together in terms of motive.

It’s also possible the new charges have something to do with punishment, though it’s hard to see how they can get much more. Huckaby has only one life to give, after all.

Chances are cops want to ramp up the potential penalty so she’ll rat out others who might be involved. The more people she’s hurt, the greater the chance she’ll face the death penalty. If Huckaby is taking the heat because she fears she’ll be killed if she says what she knows, the prosecution may want her to understand that she’ll be killed either way. What better way to squeeze a suspect than to let her think she can’t save her life by staying silent? (Prosecutors may have recently put the death penalty on the table in the Casey Anthony case for the same reason.) 

There are many reasons to believe Huckaby did not act alone, and even more reasons to wonder what others knew about what she was doing. We know Huckaby lived with her grandparents in a small trailer and that her grandmother was home at the time Sandra Cantu arrived and then disappeared. What did the grandmother see and hear? Why haven’t we heard what she told police? What about Huckaby’s grandfather, the pastor at a nearby church from which evidence in the case, including computers, was seized? What did he know? Were the grandparents there when Huckaby’s ex-boyfriend was drugged? It happened after midnight in their tiny home. Could Huckaby have done so many horrible things in their trailer without their knowledge?

Just as big-time drug dealers use kids as mules to get the dirty work done because kids aren’t as suspicious as adults, child pornographers use pathetic, financially desperate mothers to deliver victims so the big guys can keep a safe distance from law enforcement.

Whether Melissa Huckaby is a mule remains to be seen—but it’s clear she’s exactly the type child pornographers look for: a weak woman with mental health and financial problems, and a history of being abused. In other words, a woman who will do what she’s told and then shiver in fear and silence when she gets caught.

Wendy is a former child abuse and sex crimes prosecutor who teaches at New England Law/Boston. Wendy is an impact litigator who specializes in the representation of crime victims, women and children. She also writes and lectures widely on victims' rights and criminal justice policy. Her first book, And Justice For Some, was published in late 07 and is a scathing expose of the American legal system. A former NFL Cheerleader, Wendy lives outside Boston with her husband and five children.