HACIENDA HEIGHTS, Calif. — The mother of a 9-year-old girl whose dead body was found in a duffel bag at the bottom of an embankment in Hacienda Heights arrived in California for questioning Thursday after she was detained in Texas on an alleged parole violation, authorities said.
Taquesta Graham, 28, has not been named a suspect in the death of her daughter, Trinity Love Jones, whose body was discovered partially protruding from a duffel bag by a county work crew March 5, Deputy Michelle Sanchez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Information Bureau said in a written statement.
Graham’s boyfriend, 38-year-old Emiel Lamar Hunt, was charged Tuesday with murder for the death of Trinity Love Jones, officials said. He’s scheduled to appear in Los Angeles County Superior Court to enter a plea April 16.
“Graham remains to be held in Los Angeles County custody on the unrelated warrant,” Sanchez said. “Homicide investigators continue to vet community tips and follow up on additional evidence obtained during the investigation. The criminal case naming Taquesta Graham is being prepared for presentation to the District Attorney’s Office on a later date.”
Hunt served more than a decade in prison after being convicted of abusing his own son in San Diego County in 2005, sheriff’s Detective Marc Boivert said.
It was not clear Thursday what crime Graham had been convicted of that placed her under parole supervision.
Sheriff’s officials previously said they believed Jones’ body had been pushed over the side of an embankment from a turnout along Hacienda Boulevard within two days of being discovered, but detectives now believe the victim had been dropped off several days earlier.
“Since then, additional information revealed that the victim’s body was actually left at the crime scene during the afternoon hours of March 1,” Sanchez said.
The day after the girl’s body was found, but before she was positively identified by coroner’s officials, a tipster contacted investigators and told them a sketch of the victim being distributed by the sheriff’s department in hopes of identifying her resembled Trinity Love Jones.
“The informant expressed concern, but did not know the whereabouts of Trinity or her mother, Taquesta Graham,” Sanchez said. “Although a positive identification had not yet been determined, investigators began following this lead in addition to many others, to either identify or exclude Trinity Love Jones as the child victim.”
Hunt and Graham were stopped and detained about 6 a.m. March 8 at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in Hudspeth County, Texas, officials said. But they were not immediately connected to the Southern California homicide investigation.
Agents detained Graham on an unrelated warrant and released Hunt, who drove back to Southern California.
An autopsy performed later the same day found that the young victim had been the victim of a homicide, though investigators withheld specifics of how she died, sheriff’s officials said. But her identity had not yet been confirmed.
Detectives found Hunt asleep in his car in the parking lot of San Diego International Airport, sheriff’s officials said. He was interviewed and ultimately booked on suspicion of murder. Bail has been set at $2 million pending legal proceedings, according to Los Angeles County booking records.
Coroner’s officials confirmed the victim to be Trinity Love Jones March 10. Detectives presented a homicide case against Hunt to prosecutors the following day.
Graham remained in custody in Texas until Thursday, when she was extradited to Los Angeles, officials said.
“Investigators booked Graham at the Norwalk Sheriff’s Station for an unrelated warrant, and she was subsequently interviewed regarding her daughter’s murder,” Sanchez said.
Detectives have been working to piece together information about the family, she said.
“Investigators learned Graham, Hunt and victim Trinity Jones moved from a family member’s home in Long Beach in May of 2018,” Sanchez said. “During the past ten months, the extended family had only seen or heard from the couple and Trinity on a few occasions.”
The man, woman and child were believed to have been homeless and staying in their car, or a Santa Fe Springs motel, shortly before the girl died.
There were no “open or active” California Department of Children and Family Services investigations involving Trinity Love Jones, sheriff’s officials said.