Merced police investigating missing 8-year-old find a body


Merced police found the body of an adolescent girl Friday afternoon while serving a search warrant at a home believed to be connected to the disappearance of an 8-year-old girl, according to authorities.

Hayward police reached out to Merced police Friday to ask for help in an investigation into the whereabouts of 8-year-old Sophia Mason, according to information provided by both departments.

Investigators don’t yet know whether the body is Sophia’s and hope to make an identification within a couple of days, said Lt. Joey Perez, a Merced police spokesman.

Sophia, of Merced, was last seen by family in December and was reported missing to Hayward police on Tuesday, authorities said.

The girl was believed to be with her mother, 30-year-old Samantha Johnson, who was arrested Thursday by Hayward police and booked into Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County on suspicion of obstruction and child abuse, according to authorities and jail records.

Johnson gave suspicious answers when Hayward detectives questioned her about her daughter, Perez said.

Through their joint investigation with Hayward authorities, Merced police linked the girl and her mother to a home in the 500 block of Barclay Way in Merced, Perez said.

Detectives obtained a search warrant for the address, which they served around 2 p.m., he said.

Authorities were canvassing the neighborhood Friday hoping to get more information, Perez said.

Further information about the investigation was not available.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Det. John Pinnegar with the Merced Police Department at (209) 388-7712 or email him at pinnegarj@cityofmerced.org.



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