Samantha Johnson has been officially charged with the murder of her eight year old daughter Sophia Mason. According to police reports Sophia Mason had not been seen from family members since December 2021. Police in Merced California became involved and when they interviewed Samantha Johnson she would lead them to the home of her boyfriend Dhante Jackson. When police searched the home of Dhante Johnson they would find the body of eight year old Sophia Mason. Dhante Jackson who would flee before police search the home is currently wanted for murder of Sophia Mason. Now Samantha Johnson who was arrested on an old child abuse warrant has been charged with the murder of her daughter Sophia Mason. Other family members have been warning authorities for some time that Sophia Brown was not safe in her mother’s care and talked about how Sophia was in and out of her daughters life and would take her to random hotel rooms in the Merced California area.
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Jail records show that the mother of an 8-year-old girl who was found dead inside a Merced home has now been charged with her first-degree murder.
According to the Merced County Sheriff’s Office jail booking website, 30-year-old Samantha Johnson was booked into the main jail on a charge of first-degree murder on Tuesday.
On Friday, Johnson’s 8-year-old daughter Sophia Mason was reported missing to the Hayward Police Department
Hayward police reached out to the Merced Police Department about Mason’s disappearance, prompting detectives to meet with Johnson for an interview.
During the interview, officers say Johnson provided them with the address of the home in Merced where Mason’s body was later discovered.
A short time later, a state-wide manhunt began for Johnson’s boyfriend, 34-year-old Dhante Jackson, who officials say lives at the home where Mason was found.
Officers say Jackson ‘went on the run’ shortly after learning his home had been searched and a warrant had been issued for his arrest. Jackson is reportedly known to frequent the Bay Area.
Anyone who has seen Jackson or knows his whereabouts is asked to call the Merced Police Department at 209-385-4725.
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Authorities have identified the body discovered in a Merced home last week as Sophia Mason, an 8-year-old girl from Hayward, who was reported missing March 8.
The confirmation, announced by the Merced County Sheriff’s Coroner’s Bureau Tuesday afternoon, comes four days after Sophia’s mother, Samantha Johnson, was arrested on murder charges by Merced police. A manhunt is underway for Johnson’s boyfriend, Dhante Jackson, 34, who lived in the home where Mason’s body was found.
The coroner’s bureau has not released a cause of death for Sophia, citing a pending autopsy.
“We’re broken,” Melissa Harris, a cousin of Sophia’s, said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “I think we all knew but we wanted to hold onto a tiny shred of hope that it wasn’t her of course.”
Sophia was last seen with her 30-year-old mother, Samantha Johnson, in the Merced area. Her aunt, Emerald Johnson, told this news organization that she reported Sophia missing to the Hayward Police Department on March 8 after what she described as a “disturbing” phone call between Samantha Johnson and her mother, in which Samantha said that she was planning to travel from Merced to the Bay Area without Sophia because she “gave her away.”
Hayward police arrested Samantha Johnson on March 10 on a warrant stemming from a 2021 case of child abuse in Alameda County. Cassondra Fovel, a spokesperson for the Hayward Police Department, said Tuesday that the child abuse case was referred to the department by Alameda County’s Children and Family Services in October 2021 but that the county agency determined it to be “unfounded” at that time. During the investigation into the disappearance of Sophia, however, police said they were given new information to pursue charges.
The following day, Hayward police contacted the Merced Police Department about an “at-risk missing juvenile” and provided the agency with a possible address where Sophia was last seen, in the 500 block of Barclay Way in Merced. While executing a search warrant, officers discovered the body of a young girl in the home.
Johnson was initially booked into Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail but is being transferred to Merced County Jail, where she will be arraigned on her charges.
The Merced Police Department has also issued a murder warrant for Jackson, who is believed to be on the run after hearing that police were searching his home, where Sophia’s body was found. Jackson is reportedly known to frequent the Bay Area and police are asking for assistance in locating him.
For most of her life, Sophia had been raised primarily in Hayward by her aunt Emerald and her grandmother, although neither of them had formal custody of her. Her mother, meanwhile, bounced around between homes, hotels and homeless shelters in the Bay Area and Southern California, according to relatives.
In January 2021, however, Samantha Johnson removed Sophia from her grandmother’s home and began taking Sophia with her as she moved between the Bay Area and Southern California, according to Emerald Johnson, who said Sophia was unexcused from school for nearly two months. The Hayward Unified School District, where Sophia attended school, did not immediately return requests for comment.
Since her sister took Sophia under her care, Emerald Johnson said that she filed several reports with Alameda County’s Children and Family Services and the Hayward Police Department, including the most recent missing person report, regarding concerns about Sophia’s health and welfare under the supervision of her sister, Samantha Johnson.
Sophia’s aunt Emerald described the 8-year-old girl as “very sweet, very caring and very nurturing.”
“She loved to play with almost anything and loved to dance,” she said. “She’d always want us to watch her sing and dance.”
After Sophia spent an extended period of time with her mom, Emerald Johnson said relatives noticed a decline in her energy level and general demeanor, as well as bruising and scabs on her body.
“She was always such a joy and was so sweet, but there was a huge difference from when she left and when we saw her again,” she said.
Before getting official confirmation on Monday, Sophia’s relatives started a GoFundMe over the weekend for her funeral expenses, as they said they were already “operating under the assumption” that the body found in Merced was Sophia’s.
In addition to mourning and planning services, Harris said the family is also working to ensure that her cousin’s alleged accomplice, Jackson, is apprehended.
“I know this won’t make it right,” Harris said. “Sophia’s gone, but we do want police to find him and bring him to justice.”