MERCED, Calif. (KGPE) – A new Merced police report is revealing new details about the homicide investigation regarding the death of 8-year-old Sophia Mason.
Mason was found dead in a Merced home in March. Her mother, Samantha Johnson, and Johnson’s boyfriend, Dhante Jackson, have been arrested and face first-degree murder charges.
A mountain of stuffed animals, candles, and an angel stand as part of a vigil to remind the community of the Mason. Family remembers the little girl by her infectious smile and bright future.
“Sophia was so full of potential, was so full of joy,” said Mason’s cousin, Melissa Harris.
According to the police report, law enforcement tracked down Johnson and Jackson in Newark a month after Mason went missing.
The report said Johnson was taken in for questioning on a child abuse case and officers let Jackson go.
Later the same day, Mason’s body was found inside a bathtub of this Merced home where Mason lived with Jackson and Johnson.
Investigators had Johnson in custody once they found Mason’s body but police officials said Jackson went on the run until he was captured in September.
During detectives’ questioning, the Merced police report states Johnson said Jackson forced Mason to stay in the shed in the backyard.
“I can’t help but think how lonely she had been when she was locked in that shed,” said Carly Sanchez, who represents Mason’s grandmother.
The police report also said Johnson told detectives that on February 10th, a month before Mason’s body was found, Johnson brought her in from the backyard shed for “a shower,” Once inside, the report said Johnson told detectives Jackson got “upset, “pulled Mason by her hair,” and “threw Mason on the ground.”
Documents state Johnson got her daughter ready to bathe, left to go upstairs, and then heard a “thud”/”boom.”
“In my twenty years in law enforcement, this case is one of the most disturbing and horrific I’ve seen,” said Merced Police Department Lt. Joseph Perez during a press conference Sunday.
Johnson told detectives that the next day, she knocked on the locked bathroom door and said “Sophia, Sophia” but never saw the little girl again. The report said Johnson told detectives that she thought Mason ran away and she looked for her for two weeks.
The detectives asked if Johnson ever went into the locked bathroom or tried to go in through the door or the window. The report said Johnson said she did not, they were locked.
Johnson did not file a missing person’s report. According to the report, Johnson told detectives Jackson abused her daughter “too often.” Again, documents said Johnson never made a police report.
Police said Johnson did admit to choking her daughter in the past but she denied being involved in Mason’s death.
Both Jackson and Johnson will be in court on Wednesday in Merced.