Dhante Jackson Merced California man arrested in the abuse and murder of Sophia Mason, 8 year old Hayward girl. A death that could’ve been prevented. 

California man wanted for murdering 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 Masonwhose 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.

The case shocked the Merced community. ‘Our police department and task force worked tirelessly for months and months to track him down, and I applaud all of their work,’ said Mayor Matt Serratto, who is also Merced County chief deputy district attorney in a released statement.

Officers also charged four other suspects, one in Merced and three in the Bay Area, who are suspected of aiding Jackson in evading arrest, ABC30 reported.

Desperate pleas that went unheard…

Police declined to offer further details, while saying the case remained under investigation.

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

In documents from the Merced Police Department’s investigation, Johnson claimed she had not seen her child for weeks before the murder, ABC30 reported.

The documents also allege Sophia being forced to live in a metal shed in the backyard of the house and was sexually abused by Jackson.

Following 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, only for their pleas to go unheard. 

‘(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.