$3,000 Reward Offered in Search for Suspect in Sophia Mason's Death

NBC Universal, Inc.

Merced police have offered a reward for information leading to the arrest of Dhante Jackson, who is wanted in connection with the death of a young girl from Hayward.

Police have put up a $3,000 reward for Jackson, who is wanted in the slaying of his girlfriend's 8-year-old daughter, Sophia Mason.

Mason was found dead at a home in Merced earlier this month.

Mason's mother, Samantha Johnson, was charged in the killing. She is being held without bail.

Mason's body was found after relatives told police they had not seen her since December. It's not clear how she died.

"We still to this day don’t know exactly how she died or what happened," Melanie Verlatti, Mason's cousin, said. "We’re waiting on autopsy reports to come back to us. Unfortunately, at the time of death, her body had been decomposed for some time. We don't know how much time, but they needed dental records to verify her identity."

Mason's family told NBC Bay Area they're grateful a reward is being offered and hope police track down Jackson.

Jackson is believed to be in the Bay Area. Anyone who might know his whereabouts is asked to call police.

Verlatti believes Mason's death could have been prevented had police and child services acted sooner.

The family filed a missing persons report earlier this month and police tracked her mother to a Newark hotel.

"That’s where they arrested her on the child abuse, endangerment, and asked her, 'Where is Sophia?'" Verlatti said. "She was giving suspicious answers. Finally, she tells them, 'She's at this address.' Apparently Dante was there also at the time. They didn’t know or they didn't have enough evidence, they didn't know he was connected."

Contact Us