Police Arrest Mother’s Boyfriend in Merced Girl’s Homicide After Monthslong Manhunt

Authorities announced on Sunday that they had apprehended a suspect in the killing of an 8-year-old girl whose body had been missing since February but was discovered in March inside a residence in Central California.

The California attorney general’s office and the police in the city of Newark in the San Francisco Bay Area have announced that Dhante Jackson was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of murder in the case of Sophia Mason.

Lt. Joe Perez of the Merced Police Department said at a press conference on Sunday that investigators found evidence that the youngster was subjected to continuous physical abuse, was emaciated, and was sometimes forced to reside in a shed in the backyard of Jackson’s home.

Police Arrest Mother's Boyfriend in Merced Girl's Homicide After Monthslong Manhunt
Police Arrest Mother’s Boyfriend in Merced Girl’s Homicide After Monthslong Manhunt

Samantha Johnson, the 30-year-old mother of the child victim, was arrested in March and has pleaded not guilty to murder and child abuse, according to authorities. Jackson was in a relationship with Johnson.

Jackson, now 34 years old, is also charged with murder and child abuse. On Sunday, it was unclear whether he is represented by counsel.

According to Perez, four more persons were detained on Saturday on suspicion of aiding Jackson’s escape.

“This case is the most distressing and awful that I’ve seen in my 20 years of law enforcement,” the lieutenant stated.

Hayward, a city in the San Francisco Bay Area, is where Sophia’s family reported her missing. Those close to the child told police they hadn’t seen or heard from her since December and that they knew she was staying in various places in Hayward and Southern California.

Police in Hayward said they found Johnson after receiving a missing person report and arrested him on a warrant from a child abuse case in Alameda County from a year ago.

After hearing Johnson’s statements, Hayward police requested the help of the Merced Police Department, who executed a search warrant at Jackson’s Merced residence in March.

Sophia’s body was discovered by authorities in Merced, California, in a bathtub inside a locked bathroom.

Johnson said to a Merced police investigator that she and her then-boyfriend Jackson had locked Sophia in a shed while Jackson physically and sexually abused the young girl.

According to child-welfare documents obtained by the Bay Area News Group, Sophia informed social workers twice that her mother had choked and beaten her.

The internal records reveal that at one time a teacher and a social worker voiced serious concerns over indicators of abuse.

Sylvia Johnson, Sophia’s grandmother, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Alameda County last week, claiming the county’s Department of Child and Family Services failed to take reasonable precautions to keep Sophia safe.

On Sunday, the news organization claimed that Alameda County has 45 days to reply to the family’s accusations. The family has six months to bring a lawsuit after the claim has been rejected by the county without receiving a settlement offer.