Mother's boyfriend arrested in abuse, killing of 8-year-old Hayward girl; 3 women also charged

ByRicky Courtney via KFSN logo
Monday, September 12, 2022
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After a months-long manhunt, Dhante Jackson has been arrested on suspicion of killing 8-year-old Sophia Mason of Hayward in Merced, police said.

FRESNO, Calif. -- After a months-long manhunt, Dhante Jackson has been arrested on suspicion of killing 8-year-old Sophia Mason of Hayward in Merced, California earlier this year, police said.

Merced police said Dhante Jackson had been on the run since that time. According to California Attorney General Rob Bonta, he was finally tracked down and taken into custody in Newark on Saturday.

RELATED: Merced police looking for homicide suspect after child found dead in home

Bonta said Jackson avoided capture with help of "several female acquaintances," as they provided him with money, transportation and shelter. Those three individuals, each from San Jose, Newark and Merced, were arrested Saturday on suspicion of helping Jackson evade arrest, the attorney general's office said.

Sophia was found dead in a bathtub in early March after being reported missing in February when the Hayward Police Department reached out to Merced police concerned over her whereabouts.

Sophia lived in Merced but had been known to visit Hayward with her mother, according to officials.

The family of Sophia said she was living with a family member and going to school in Hayward when her mother picked her up and took her away in October 2021. A report had been filed with Child Protective Services, but Hayward police said the allegations were unfounded at the time.

Her mother, 30-year-old Samantha Johnson, was taken into custody at that time in Alameda County before being transferred to Merced County Jail and now faces charges of felony child abuse and first-degree murder. She has pleaded not guilty.

RELATED: East Bay mother faces first degree murder in death of 8-year-old daughter found in Merced home

In documents from the Merced Police Department's investigation, obtained by our sister station ABC30 in Fresno, Johnson claimed she had not seen her child for weeks before the murder.

The documents also allege Sophia was forced to live in a metal shed in the backyard of the house and was sexually abused by Jackson.

The Merced Police Department says that Jackson will be transported back to the Merced County Jail to face charges.

Merced police say they plan to hold a news conference on Sunday morning to discuss the case.

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