MERCED, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Several months after the body of a missing 8-year-old girl was found at a Merced home, officials said the main suspect in her death has now been arrested.

On Saturday, the Merced Police Department announced that 34-year-old Dhante Jackson had been arrested in Newark, California after spending six months on the run following the death of Sophia Mason.

Mason’s body was found in a bathtub at a home near Barclay Way and M Street in Merced on March 11. California Attorney General Rob Bonta said that Mason had been forced to live in a shed in Jackson’s yard, suffering sexual and physical abuse leading up to her death.

Her mother, Samantha Johnson, was taken into custody shortly after Mason’s body was discovered, but officials said Jackson had managed to evade arrest with the help of four suspects, one who lives in Merced and three others from the Bay area.

“When I heard about Dhante Jackson’s arrest, I was relieved, astounded, and probably concerned all at once,” explained Melissa Harris, Mason’s cousin. “Relieved he is no longer on the run and can face the consequences of his actions for the murder of my cousin, who is an innocent 8-year-old girl.”

Over the past six months, Harris said her family lived in fear knowing the main suspect in Sophia’s death had not yet been arrested.

Dhante Jackson was taken into custody Saturday, September 10. (Photo: Merced Police Department)

“Frankly it was frustrating, it was scary for my family not knowing where he was or what type of harm he would want to do, knowing he was capable of murder of a child,” Harris said.

Harris said her family has found some comfort in Jackson’s arrest, but ultimately, nothing will ever fix the damage done by Mason’s untimely death.

“While we are relieved he is off the streets, there is no restitution, there is no justice, there is no fixing this, but I suppose we can be a step closer now that he will be put behind bars.”

Jackson will be transported back to the Merced County Jail to face charges related to Mason’s death and child abuse.

Johnson remains in custody at the Merced Jail on suspicion of murder and child abuse. She has pleaded not guilty to her daughter’s death.

The Merced Police Department will be holding a press conference on Sunday morning to give more details about Jackson’s arrest and the case.