Mother of 8-year-old Hayward girl found dead charged with murder, abuse

Samantha Johnson, of Hayward, is being held on suspicion of murder of her 8-year-old daughter Sophia Mason in Merced County.

The mother of an 8-year-old girl who was found dead inside a central California home after the child was reported missing was charged in her killing along with her boyfriend, authorities said.

Samantha Johnson, 30, and her boyfriend, Dhante Jackson, 34, were charged Monday with murder and child abuse in the death of Johnson’s daughter, Sophia Mason, the Merced County District Attorney’s Office said.

Johnson is in custody and Jackson remains at large, the office said.

The Public Defender’s office in Merced County, which is representing Johnson, did not immediately return a message from The Associated Press Wednesday seeking comment

Sophia was reported missing by relatives in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Hayward earlier this month. They told police they had no had contact with the girl since December, and that she was known to stay at different locations between Hayward and Southern California.

MORE: Sophia Mason's family: 'This could have been totally avoided'


The missing person report led Hayward police to arrest Johnson on a warrant stemming from a case of child abuse in Alameda County last year, police said.

Statements Johnson made to Hayward police prompted them to ask for assistance from the Merced Police Department, which served a search warrant at the house in Merced where Jackson resides, they said.

Merced police found Sophia’s body in a bathtub, inside a locked bathroom, according to court documents obtained by the Merced Sun-Star,

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. The documents indicate detectives located evidence that abuse happened, the newspaper reported.