LOS ANGELES – 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 is being held without bail after she was extradited to Los Angeles from Texas.
Investigators booked 28-year-old Taquesta Graham for an unrelated parole violation on Thursday, March 14, and she was subsequently interviewed about her daughter’s death, officials said.
A 38-year-old man believed to be Graham’s boyfriend, Emiel Hunt, has been charged with murdering the girl, identified by the county coroner’s office as 9-year-old 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.
In the early stages of the investigation, sheriff’s detectives asked for the public’s help in identifying the girl. They released a composite sketch of the child and photos of the clothing she was wearing. Initially, some local residents believed the girl might be Skylar Mannie, a 13-year-old girl who went missing from Lancaster in mid-February. But detectives quickly confirmed that the body was not Skylar Mannie. And days later, Skylar Mannie was reportedly found and reunited with her family.
As sheriff’s homicide detectives investigated the case, Emiel Hunt and Taquesta Graham were stopped in Hunt’s SUV about 6 a.m. Friday, March 8, 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 initially unaware of Graham’s arrest.
After Graham was arrested, Hunt began driving back to California, officials said.
Hunt was subsequently arrested Saturday, March 9, after being found sleeping in his black Nissan Armada SUV in a lot near San Diego International Airport. Investigators have not revealed how they learned he was in San Diego. Hunt was charged with the murder of Trinity Love Jones on Tuesday, March 12, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. He appeared briefly in court that day, but his arraignment was delayed until April 16. He remains jailed in lieu of $2 million bail.
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.
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.
Limited contact with family, homelessness
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.
“I have been getting asked a lot of questions about whether L.A. County had interacted with Trinity Love Jones and her family before her murder – – whether that was through the Department of Children and Family Services, the Probation Department, or the Sheriff’s department,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said. “While that is unclear at this point, there are several red flags in Trinity’s life that need to be followed up on. I am going to get to the bottom of what could have been done, if anything, to prevent her death and the suffering she undoubtedly endured. I hope we will have additional answers when the Sheriff Department’s investigation is completed in the coming days.”
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.
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