After evading authorities for six months, fugitive Dhante Jackson was arrested for the murder of Sophia Mason, an eight-year-old Hayward girl found dead in the accused's bathtub in Merced, California on March 11, 2022. According to multiple reports, 34-year-old Dhante Jackson was taken into custody by the Merced police in the San Francisco Bay Area on Saturday, September 10.
The New York Post reported that authorities arrested the victim's mother, Samantha Johnson, on a similar charge earlier this year. Citing child welfare documents, the Bay Area News Group reported that Sophia had told social workers that her mother choked her and hit her. Johnson was reportedly in a relationship with the accused.
Jackson will face murder and child abuse charges, police and the California attorney’s office revealed in a statement on Saturday, September 10. Attorney General Rob Bonta said:
“I want 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.”
Authorities added that they have arrested three other women for assisting Dhante Jackson evade arrest for months.
Trigger Warning: Mentions of sexual assault.
Sophia Mason was subjected to repeated abuse by Dhante Jackson
Johnson told police that Sophia was forced to live in Jackson's metal shed where she was abused repeatedly. According to multiple reports, Sophia Mason was primarily looked after by her grandmother until January 2021. At that time Sophia’s mother Samantha - who for years was an unreliable fixture and suffered from a history of mental illness and substance abuse - started to express interest in Sophia's life.
In October, Sophia began living with her mother, and Dhante Jackson. During this time, concerned for her welfare, the family made copious reports to child services.
Bay Area News Group revealed that social services ignored repeated pleas from concerned family members who alleged that Sophia was abused and neglected by her mother. Months later, she was found dead in Jackson's home.
Sophia Mason was missing for a month before she was found by the police
On March 11, 2022, police found the decomposing body of Sophia Mason at Jackson's home in Merced. Authorities on September 11, Sunday revealed that Mason was dead for at least a month before they found her locked in a bathroom. The police said that she was severely malnutritioned and exhibited signs of abuse.
Merced police Sgt. Kalvin Haygood made the following statement to Mercury News:
“It was probably the most disturbing thing I’ve seen in my career. I just can’t begin to imagine what that child went through."
“It really makes you wonder, ‘Where did it all go wrong? Why wasn’t this child protected?"
Sophia’s aunt Emerald Johnson, who reportedly made three complaints to DCFS last year, told Mercury News that her niece could have been saved if the officials had done their due diligence and placed her in a safe environment.
“Her life could have been saved. The bottom line is they didn’t believe me. They didn’t believe Sophia.”
The investigation is ongoing. Dhante Jackson is currently locked up at the Merced County Jail.