Man wanted after child’s body found in California home

Posted at 7:31 AM, March 14, 2022 and last updated 7:55 PM, July 12, 2023

MERCED, Calif. (AP) — A manhunt was under way Saturday for a man wanted in the death of a child whose body was found inside a central California home during the search for a missing 8-year-old girl.

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. (Hayward Police Department via AP)

The body was discovered at a home in Merced on Friday, several days after relatives of Sophia Mason told police in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Hayward that they had not had contact with the girl since December, and that she was known to stay at different locations between Hayward and Southern California.

The missing person report led Hayward police to arrest the girl’s mother, Samantha Johnson, 30, on a warrant stemming from a case of child abuse in Alameda County last year, the Merced police department said in a statement Saturday.

Her statements led police to serve a search warrant at the house in Merced, where her 34-year-old boyfriend Dhante Jackson resides, the statement said.

Investigators said they believe Jackson went on the run after news spread about the search of his home.

Merced police said investigators were working to identify the body. They did not release the cause of death.

Johnson was being held for investigation of murder. She will be transferred to the Merced County Jail to face charges, police said.

A warrant was issued for Jackson’s arrest. Police said he is known to frequent the Bay Area.