The mother of 9-year-old Trinity Love Jones, whose body was found in a duffel bag along a trail in Hacienda Heights this month, was charged Wednesday with murder in connection with her daughter’s slaying.
Taquesta Graham, 28, a former Long Beach resident, has been in custody without bail since March 8 on a warrant unrelated to her daughter’s death. She was extradited from Texas to California last week to answer investigators’ questions about Trinity.
Graham’s boyfriend, Emiel Hunt, 38, has also been charged with murder in the child’s death. If convicted, Hunt faces up to 55 years to life in prison. Graham faces a maximum sentence of 26 years to life in state prison if convicted.
Authorities say Hunt killed Trinity on March 1 and dumped her body on the trail.
The girl’s body was found five days later inside a large duffel bag that had been abandoned in light brush a short distance from the 60 Freeway. Her head and part of her torso were protruding from the bag. Authorities have not said how she was killed.
After the gruesome discovery, Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators sought the public’s help to identify the girl and released a sketch of her. An informant, whom police have not identified, told authorities that the sketch of the girl resembled Trinity. The person “expressed concern, but did not know the whereabouts of Trinity or her mother,” the Sheriff’s Department wrote in a news release.
Investigators looked into Graham and Hunt’s criminal histories and began searching for them as possible suspects in the case. Court records show Hunt was convicted of felony child abuse in San Diego County in 2005 and sentenced to 12 years in state prison. Graham has a prior conviction for involvement with a minor in prostitution.
Detectives at the time still weren’t positive about the girl’s identity.
On March 8, Hunt and Graham were stopped in Hunt’s black Nissan Armada at a Border Patrol checkpoint in Hudspeth County, Texas. Graham was taken into custody on an unrelated warrant, and Hunt was released. After his girlfriend was arrested, Hunt drove back to California.
Detectives arrested Hunt a day later after they found him sleeping in his SUV, which was parked in a lot near San Diego International Airport. Family members met with coroner’s investigators March 10 and formally identified the dead girl as Trinity.
Graham, Hunt and Trinity moved from a family member’s home in Long Beach in May. Extended family saw or heard from the couple and the girl on only a few occasions over the last 10 months, and investigators discovered they had been homeless just before the girl’s death. They had been sleeping at a motel in Santa Fe Springs or in their car, authorities said.