Sunday, January 29

‘This is a nightmare’: Hayward mother arrested after police find a child’s body amid search for missing 8-year-old

The mother of an 8-year-old Hayward girl, who was reported missing earlier this week, has been arrested on suspicion of murder after a child’s dead body was found inside a Merced home, authorities said Saturday.

Meanwhile, police are searching for the mother’s boyfriend, who was living at the home where the body was found and is believed to be on the run.

Merced police found the body of a young girl Friday while serving a search warrant at a Merced home believed to be connected with Sophia Mason, a missing 8-year-old girl from Hayward. The Merced County Coroner’s Office has not positively identified the body as Sophia’s, but they are hoping to make a determination soon, police said in a news release.

Sophia was last seen with her mother, Samantha Johnson, 30, according to police.

Johnson was initially arrested Thursday by Hayward police on suspicion of obstruction and child abuse related to a warrant stemming from a 2021 incident that occurred in Alameda County. She was booked into Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, according to the Merced Police Department. That same day, Hayward Police contacted the Merced Police Department regarding an “at-risk missing juvenile” and provided the agency with a possible address where Mason was last seen, which led them to the home in the 500 block of Barclay Way in Merced where a child’s body was found Friday.

Merced police interviewed Johnson in Santa Rita Jail on Friday evening after they discovered the child’s body and ultimately arrested her on the murder charge, authorities said. Lt. Joey Perez, a Merced police spokesman, told the Los Angeles Times that Johnson gave suspicious answers when Hayward detectives questioned her about her daughter. She is expected to be transferred to the Merced County Jail.

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