Mother’s Boyfriend Arrested in Killing of California Girl, 8

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MERCED, Calif.—Police have arrested a suspect in the death of an 8-year-old girl whose body was found last March inside a central California home after the child was reported missing, authorities said.

After a months-long manhunt, Dhante Jackson was taken into custody Saturday in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Newark on suspicion of killing Sophia Mason, the California attorney general’s office said.

Jackson was in a relationship with the young victim’s mother, 30-year-old Samantha Johnson, who was arrested in March and has pleaded not guilty to murder and child abuse, prosecutors said.

Jackson, 34, also faces murder and child abuse charges. It wasn’t known Sunday if he has an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Four other people were arrested Saturday on suspicion of helping Jackson evade arrest, the attorney general’s office said.

Sophia was reported missing by relatives in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Hayward. They told police they had not had contact with the girl since December, and that she was known to stay at different locations between Hayward and Southern California.

Sophia Mason
Sophia Mason. (Hayward Police Department via AP)

The missing person report led Hayward police to arrest Johnson on a warrant stemming from a case of child abuse in Alameda County last year, police said.

Statements Johnson made to Hayward police prompted them to ask for assistance from the Merced Police Department, which served a search warrant at the house in Merced where Jackson lives, they said.

Merced police found Sophia’s body in a bathtub, inside a locked bathroom, according to court documents.

Johnson told a Merced police detective that Jackson, her boyfriend, had kept Sophia in a shed outside the Merced house and that the child was subjected to physical and sexual abuse by Jackson.

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