POMONA (CBSLA) – The mother of a 9-year-old girl whose body was found partially inside a large duffel bag near an equestrian trail in the Hacienda Heights area was extradited to Los Angeles from Texas Thursday morning and was being held without bail.
Investigators booked Taquesta Graham, 28, at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Norwalk Station for an unrelated parole violation and she was subsequently interviewed about her daughter’s death, officials said.
A 38-year-old man believed to be Graham’s boyfriend, Emiel Lamar Hunt, was arrested early Saturday and charged with the murder of the girl, identified by the county coroner’s office as Trinity Love Jones.
The girl’s body was found about 10 a.m. on March 5 at the bottom of an embankment close to Colima Road and the 3400 block of Hacienda Boulevard, near the His Lai Buddhist Temple. The body, which was found by county workers clearing some brush, was partially inside a black roll-away-type duffel, with her head and upper body protruding from the partially zipped bag, authorities said.
Hunt, who was arrested after being found sleeping in his black Nissan Armada SUV in a lot near San Diego International Airport, appeared briefly in a Pomona courtroom Tuesday, but his arraignment was delayed until April 16. He remains jailed in lieu of $2 million bail.
The criminal case naming Taquesta Graham is being prepared for presentation to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, according to the sheriff’s department.
The complaint against Hunt alleges he has a 2005 conviction for child abuse from San Diego County.
Hunt could face up to 50 years to life in state prison if convicted as charged, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
As sheriff’s homicide detectives investigated the case, Hunt and Graham were stopped in Hunt’s SUV about 6 a.m. Friday at a border patrol checkpoint in Hudspeth County, Texas, officials said.
“Graham was arrested for an unrelated warrant and Hunt was released,” according to a sheriff’s department statement that said investigators in Los Angeles County were unaware of the arrest.
After Graham was arrested, Hunt began driving back to California, officials said.
Investigators have not revealed how they learned he was in San Diego.
Graham, Hunt and Trinity moved from a family member’s home in Long Beach in May and during the past 10 months their extended family had limited contact with them, according to the sheriff’s department.
They were homeless just prior to the girl’s death and were living in a Santa Fe Springs motel or in their vehicle, officials said.
Investigators announced earlier that they believed Trinity’s body had been left along the equestrian trail within 48 hours of being found, but since then they have come to believe she had been left at the scene during the afternoon of March 1, according to the sheriff’s department.
“There were no open or active Department of Children and Family Services cases involving Trinity,” officials said.
The coroner’s office has ruled Trinity’s death a homicide, but officials have not said how the girl died and the case is on a security hold.
Sheriff’s detectives had initially asked for the public’s help in identifying the girl, releasing a composite sketch of the child and photos of the clothing she was wearing.
Family members who created a memorial of candles, flowers, balloons, stuffed animals and photos near where the girl’s body was found eventually confirmed her identity.
Photos posted to social media show a smiling Trinity Love Jones, who family members say loved dressing up like a princess.
“Trinity was our princess,” said Jones’ cousin, Sytrice Oldham-Edmond. “My family and I are devastated about losing her. She didn’t deserve any of this. She didn’t deserve to be tossed out like trash,” Oldham-Edmond said. “Trinity will be greatly missed.”
Jones’ father, who didn’t have custody of his daughter at the time, posted a 22-minute video on Facebook expressing his frustration.
“She can’t tell me how much she loves me, she can’t tell me how much she miss me,” he said.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)