The mother of a Hayward girl who was allegedly abused, kept in a shed, and murdered has been charged, but the boyfriend who was also charged is still on the run.
When we learned last week that Merced Police found the remains of an eight-year-old girl while executing a search warrant, it was only one day later that the girl was identified as Sophia Mason, whose Hayward family said they hadn’t seen her since December. Little Sophia's mother Samantha Johnson was questioned by Merced Police on a separate child abuse charge March 11, which led to the warrant on her boyfriend’s home in Merced, which led to the discovery of Sophia’s remains. Johnson remains in custody, but the 34-year-old boyfriend Dhante Jackson is still at large, and Merced Police say, “He is known to frequent the Bay Area of California.”
All of this is terrible enough, but a series of new revelations over the last two days make this heartbreaking case even more sickening, and moreover, it sure seems like Alameda County Child Protective Services had multiple opportunities to stop this.
KTVU reports that Mason's mother, Samantha Johnson, has now been charged with murder and child abuse by the Merced County District Attorney’s Office, which is no surprise. What is more shocking is that according to that station reports, “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.”
A memorial for 8-year-old Sophia Mason, of Hayward, has been set up in front of the Merced home where her body was found earlier this month.— Maggie Angst (@MaggieAngst) March 23, 2022
Here’s the latest on the investigation into her death: https://t.co/xgq4EJPdXr pic.twitter.com/cWQhv6k0ci
Fresno’s KFSN spoke with Merced Police, and the details only get worse."We found evidence to indicate a small child was living in the shed," Merced Police Sergeant Kalvin Haygood to the station. “In the statements made to Merced Police, the mother said she removed her daughter from the shed in early February and she was covered in feces.”
Just days before 8-year-old Sophia Mason was found dead, her mother made a disturbing phone call. “Samantha called and said, ‘I’m going to come visit you. I won’t have So So with me. I got rid of her.'" https://t.co/VFUml8nS25 pic.twitter.com/O6SDvPaDyt— Amy Larson (@AmyLarson25) March 22, 2022
KRON4 interviewed the mother’s cousin Melissa Harris, who provided a chilling context to the phone conversation where they learned the child was gone. “Samantha called my aunt [Sophie’s grandmother] and said, ‘I’m going to come visit you today or tomorrow and this time I won’t have [Sophia] with me. It will just be me and you, like it used to be, like it always should have been,” Harris told KRON4.
“That’s what raised a red flag to my aunt. She said, ‘Where is Sophia going to be? What did you do with her?,” Harris continued. “And finally Samantha said, ‘I got rid of her. I was tired of her.'”
This is 8-year-old Sophia Mason playing at a park a few months before she was reported missing. Her suspected murderer, Dhante Jackson, is still on the run and may be hiding in the Bay Area, Hayward police said. https://t.co/YmqGuZ1dFi pic.twitter.com/IMYE5O2FLl— Amy Larson (@AmyLarson25) March 15, 2022
And apparently Alameda County Child Protective Services (CPS) was notified more than once of the child’s situation. A women’s shelter where Johnson stayed notified the agency that the child was not being fed proper meals, and Harris says the agency met Sophia in a park in recent months and saw clear signs of abuse.
“It was the first time she had been seen since she was taken,” Harris said. “Her legs were filled with bruises and scabs. She said her mommy and her mommy’s boyfriend were beating her. She said, ‘They are hitting me with belt buckles.'”
Samantha Johnson is being held without bail, and is slated to be arraigned on March 28 in Merced Superior Court. Dhante Jackson is still at large.
Anyone with information about Jackson’s whereabouts is asked to call Merced Police Detective John Pinnegar at (209) 388-7712, reach him by email at [email protected], or call the anonymous tip line at 209-385-4725.
A GoFundMe campaign is in place to cover Sophie’s funeral expenses.
Related: Authorities On the Hunt For Mother's Boyfriend As Suspect in Possible Murder 8-Year-Old Hayward Girl [SFist]
Image: Class photo via Melissa Harris