Coroner confirms body found in Merced home is of 8-year-old Sophia Mason

The coroner's bureau confirmed Tuesday that the body found inside a Merced home last week is of 8-year-old Sophia Mason.

The Merced County Sheriff Coroner's Office said Sophia's body was found during a search warrant at a home in the 500 block of Barclay Way in Merced.

Sophia was reported missing out of Hayward. The girl's family said the girl lived at several locations around California.

The family told KTVU on Monday that they believed the body was of Mason.

"We are collectively as a family devastated, sad and, I think, numb and in a state of disbelief," said Melissa Harris, a cousin of the girl.

"There's a mixed bag of emotions of course because Samantha, her mother, is our family member also, and we love her," Harris said. "We love Sophia, but also Sophia is an innocent victim in all of this.:"

Sophia's mother, Samantha Johnson, has been arrested on suspicion of murder

Johnson's boyfriend, Dhante Jackson, is wanted for the same crime. Merced police said Monday that he is still on the run.

Jackson is not the girl's father but lives in the Merced home where a child's body was found.

Merced police would not say how the child was killed or what role the couple allegedly played in the death.

But about a week ago, Johnson called her mother and made a disturbing comment, according to Harris.

"She said, ‘Next time I see you mom, it will just be me and you, like it used to be,’ " Harris said.

Harris said Johnson was jealous of the attention her daughter got from the family. 

"She was very, almost jovial and joyous about the fact that she could be with her mother again without having Sophia present," Harris said.

The family believes Johnson, who is mentally ill, was involved in prostitution and moved from hotel to hotel. They say she would sometimes leave her daughter with her mother and disappear for months.

Less than three weeks ago, Sophia spoke with her grandmother on the phone. The normally bubbly girl didn't sound like herself, Harris said.

"She seemed very, very tired, almost drowsy, as if she were drugged," Harris said. "She wasn't able to string together her sentences appropriately, and that raised red flags for my aunt."

The family says they repeatedly contacted Alameda County social services but say they were told little could be done because the girl was with her mother.

Hayward police told KTVU that social workers received at least one complaint last year but that the agency determined it was unfounded. The county agency declined to comment on Monday, saying juvenile records are confidential under state law.