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March 31st, 2009
11:45 AM ET

8-year-old girl last seen playing outside

Sandra Cantu was last seen on Friday, March 27.
Sandra Cantu was last seen on Friday, March 27.

Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

“When planning a visit to Tracy, you’ll want to come early and stay late!”

The friendly greeting hails from a city that embraces small town living, and security. Tracy was voted one of the country's safest communities in 2007. Nestled in the San Joaquin Valley of Northern California, Tracy is about an hour’s drive from San Francisco, but a world away from the glare of the national spotlight. Until now. Until a little girl disappeared.

A prayer vigil was held Monday night for 8-year-old Sandra Cantu, missing since Friday. “We just want her returned to a safe place,” says family spokesperson Lisa Encarnacion. “They are devastated.”

Nobody is giving up hope that Sandra will be found. Sergeant Tony Sheneman of the Tracy Police Department said, "We have no evidence to indicate she's been harmed and is not alive.”

What happened to Sandra Cantu? Authorities say the second-grader was last seen Friday afternoon playing outside her family’s mobile home in the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park.

Encarnacion adds more details to the mystery. She says Sandra came home from school, went outside to play and then visited a friend’s house before heading back home.

A surveillance camera her grandfather installed recently after the tires of his car were slashed, appears to show Sandra playing with other children outside in the mobile home park at approximately 4pm. She vanished a short time later.

Sandra has brown hair and brown eyes. She is wearing a pink “Hello Kitty” t-shirt and black leggings. Sandra is 4 feet tall and weighs approximately 45 pounds.

A massive multi-agency search is underway to locate Sandra. The Tracy Police Department, the FBI, local sheriff’s offices, and California Highway Patrol have all joined forces in the efforts.

They are also being assisted by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and by hundreds of volunteers. “The outpouring of the community and by strangers has been overwhelming, Encarnacion says. “The family appreciates everyone’s support.”

Contact the Tracy Police Department at 209-831-4550 if you have any information.


Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. nancy

    was there an AMBER ALERT posted?

    April 1, 2009 at 10:33 am |
  2. Charles L Morse Sr.

    There is only one way to stop these missing children coming up over and over again . Put these child molesters away for "LIFE" and if they kill a child give them "DEATH". No exceptions to the rule of law .

    April 1, 2009 at 8:27 am |
  3. michelle

    poor girl i'll pray for her and whatever happened to her, god will guide her and watch over her and protect her.

    March 31, 2009 at 9:27 pm |
  4. Deb Osborne

    My prayer is that the poor child isn't suffering or did not suffer long.Parents need to teach their kids about "stranger danger". It's not just in the big cities. Look at Satsuma, FL now this. My other prayer is strength for the family. God doesn't give us more than we can handle. May God be with the family.

    March 31, 2009 at 8:43 pm |
  5. fatima

    i pray for the girl to be safe,but it is important to not allow children to play outside alone as these are most verneable

    March 31, 2009 at 8:05 pm |
  6. stacyj

    My prayers go out to Sandra and her family I pray she is okay. I am wondering how a community be named the safest when it has over 80 registered sex offenders? Parents must watch their children every moment. A trailer park consisting of just under 100 trailers is by no means small.....8 y/o shouldn't be running about by themselves in the park at all.

    March 31, 2009 at 5:54 pm |
  7. Tarja, Finland

    A reminder that there`s no place that`s safe.
    Possibilities look poor but let`s hope the best.

    March 31, 2009 at 5:22 pm |
  8. Isabel (Brazil)

    AC360 team,

    Excellent job of helping to find missing people!

    This is so frightening, the person leaves and don't returns no more.

    Excellent initiative of you!
    Congratulations!

    I wish all these cases are resolved.

    March 31, 2009 at 3:40 pm |
  9. Annie Kate

    Every parent's fear and nightmare....the disappearance of their child. I hope the little girl is found alive and unharmed soon. I cannot imagine what her family is going through but my thoughts and best wishes are with them.

    March 31, 2009 at 3:39 pm |
  10. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    Sergeant Tony Sheneman of the Tracy Police Department said, “We have no evidence to indicate she’s been harmed and is not alive,”----right Sergeant–the check is in the mail also. So sad-the lost of innonence.

    March 31, 2009 at 1:46 pm |
  11. Fay - California

    Some local news reports have mentioned that Sandra is a friendly child who doesn't necessarily shy away from people she doesn't know very well – it's important that parents emphasize to their kids that they should be cautious when they encounter strangers and limit their interaction with them – I'm not saying that Sandra's parents didn't do that, but it's important to make sure that kids are always aware that not everyone they meet has good intentions. I hope Sandra will be found safe.

    March 31, 2009 at 1:28 pm |
  12. Sandra Robertson, Ga.

    I hope and pray wherever Sandra may be, she finds her way home, and if someone is holding her, please, please let her go home to her family; they need her and she needs them. God Bless her and keep her safe.

    March 31, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
  13. abc ~ anything but california hugh

    I live in Tracy; and like my people here we feel powerless to do anything to help bring this little girl back home. All we can do is hope for her safe return. This is a sad day for Tracy, California, but hopefully we will have a happy ending to this story. I cannot imagine the feelings of her parents are going through right now.

    March 31, 2009 at 1:22 pm |
  14. Jeanie Beck

    My prayers,and best wishes go out to that family.and little girl!May God bring her home safe!!

    March 31, 2009 at 1:19 pm |
  15. ahtziry

    I am very sorry,for the family,my preyers are with...but this happen almost every day,don't let the kids play by them selfs neve,never,never please...

    March 31, 2009 at 1:17 pm |
  16. Angie

    my prayers are with this family and this preious little girl.

    March 31, 2009 at 1:15 pm |
  17. Kae

    Very sad story.

    Where were her friends? And why were the tires slashed?

    March 31, 2009 at 1:14 pm |
  18. LoveConstant

    Praying for a positive outcome.

    March 31, 2009 at 1:11 pm |
  19. Alyzabeth

    I hope they find that poor little girl soon. My best to her family.

    March 31, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  20. lisa harman

    My prayers are with family and hopes for a safe finding

    March 31, 2009 at 12:54 pm |
  21. Caring CARIN

    Poor thing.

    March 31, 2009 at 12:21 pm |