California man accused of killing 8-year-old girl arrested after 6 months on the run

By | September 11, 2022

A California man wanted in connection with the murder of an 8-year-old girl has been arrested after six months on the run, authorities said Saturday.

Dhante Jackson, 33, was taken into custody in Newark, California, around 1:40 p.m., the Merced Police Department said. He was booked into the Merced County Jail for murder and child abuse.

Jackson is accused of killing Sophia Mason, whose body was found inside a Merced home in March after family members in Hayward reported her missing. Jackson was dating Sophia’s mother, 31-year-old Samantha Johnson, at the time of the child’s murder.

“Our hearts and thoughts remain with the family and loved ones of little Sophia; we cannot imagine your pain as you continue to mourn her loss,” the Hayward Police Department said.

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No other details were released, and police said the case remains under investigation.

Johnson was arrested days after her daughter’s body was discovered. She has since pleaded not guilty to the child’s murder.

After Jackson’s arrest, Melissa Harris, Sophia’s cousin, told The Sacramento Bee that while she was thankful that justice will be served, the child’s death could have been prevented had the proper agencies acted when the family reported their suspicions of abuse.

“(Those agencies) had multiple chances to intervene, and they never did,” Harris said. “My hope is those who minimized the anguish of a small child will be fired.”

Harris said Sophia’s mother is developmentally challenged and believed that Jackson sexually trafficked both the girl and her mother. 

Jackson’s arrest was part of a coordinated effort involving the Merced Police Department, the Merced Area Gang and Narcotic Enforcement Team (MAGNET) and the California Department of Justice Special Operations Unit.