Man and woman arrested for death of Sophia Mason in Merced appear in court

Authorities found Sophia's malnourished body in a bathtub at a home in early March after she was reported missing in February.

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Thursday, September 15, 2022
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Both of Sophia Mason's alleged murderers made brief appearances in court on Wednesday.

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Both of Sophia Mason's alleged murderers made brief appearances in court on Wednesday.

Dhante Jackson was expected to enter a plea after being accused of murdering his girlfriend's eight-year-old daughter but instead, his arraignment was continued to give the defendant more time to get his own attorney.

"He's indicated that he does have the means to hire an attorney and just needs time to do that," says Deputy District Attorney Katie Gates.

RELATED: Family of 8-year-old Sophia Mason taking legal action against Alameda County

The victim's mother, Samantha Johnson, also was in court but not seated.

Prosecutors filed a new complaint with an added strike against Jackson but since the two are co-defendants, Johnson had to be arraigned again and entered a not guilty plea.

Both Jackson and Johnson are charged with child abuse and first-degree murder.

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

Authorities say they found Sophia's malnourished body in a bathtub at the home in early March after she was reported missing in February.

The months-long manhunt for Jackson came to an end this past weekend.

RELATED: Dhante Jackson, accused of killing 8-year-old girl in Merced, arrested after months-long manhunt

Merced police detectives teamed up with county and state agencies, who arrested Jackson in the Bay Area.

"They wrote many warrants, they spent many months tracking him down, so now it's our opportunity to present evidence in court and seek justice for Sophia," Gates said.

Sophia's family is also continuing in the fight for justice. They hired a Los Angeles law firm that handles child abuse cases.

Attorney Carly Sanchez says they filed a claim against Alameda County with more than 30 allegations of negligence - hoping to prevent this from ever happening again.

"I think that it's incredibly tragic that the adults who were in the position to do something about Sophia's circumstances instead looked the other way," Sanchez said. "Instead, this child went to her death knowing that she was on her own, that no one was coming to rescue or help her. To me, that's inexcusable."

Alameda County has 45 days to respond to that claim.

We've reached out again to Alameda County Counsel for their response, but have not heard back.

Jackson and Johnson will both be back in court next Wednesday.

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