California Man Arrested Following Months-Long Search and Charged with Murdering 8-Year-Old Girl

Dhante Jackson was arrested Saturday in Newark, California, and charged with the murder of 8-year-old Sophia Mason

This undated photo released by Hayward Police Department shows missing juvenile, Sophia Mason, 8-years-old. A child's body was found inside a home in Central California during the search for the missing 8-year-old girl, authorities said. Investigators discovered the body Friday, March 11, 2022, while serving a search warrant at a home in Merced, Calif., the city's police department said in a statement.
Sophia Mason. Photo: Hayward Police Department via AP

After a months-long search, authorities have arrested a man who allegedly killed an 8-year-old girl in California.

On Saturday, the California Attorney General's office and Merced Police Department announced the arrest of Dhante Jackson for the murder of Sophia Mason.

Sophia's body was found March 11 by the Central Valley police department, along with the Hayward Police Department at Jackson's residence in Merced, according to NBC News.

The young girl's mother Samantha Johnson, who was in a relationship with Jackson and already in custody for prior child abuse charges from 2021, provided details to investigators about what led to her daughter's death, per the outlet.

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Sophia was forced to live in a shed and had suffered sexual and physical abuse, according to a news release from the State of California Department of Justice's Office of the Attorney General.

The Merced County District Attorney's Office charged Johnson with child abuse and homicide and issued a warrant for Jackson's arrest for Sophia's murder, according to the release.

Investigators located Jackson in Newark, about 120 miles northwest of Merced in the Bay Area, where he was arrested. Four other suspects, including one in Merced and three in the Bay Area, were charged with aiding Jackson in evading the arrest, according to the news release.

"The pain of losing a child is unimaginable — especially when that child was a victim of abuse," Attorney General Rob Bonta said in the release. "We grieve with Sophia's family and loved ones, and acknowledge that she should be here with us now — playing, learning, and growing up."

"Our children should be protected from violence and we must do everything we can to safeguard them," he continued in the release.

Bonta went on to "thank the members of my team and our law enforcement partners in Merced for their work on this very difficult case, and hope it brings some measure of comfort to those who loved this young girl to know that those accused of her murder will now have to face these allegations."

Meanwhile, Sophia's family is taking legal action against Alameda County, according to NBC Bay Area.

The family alleges that county case workers did not respond to their repeated reports that the girl was being abused.

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