HACIENDA HEIGHTS, Calif. – A man identified by the victim’s family members as the boyfriend of a woman whose slain 9-year-old daughter was found partially stuffed in a duffel bag in California has been charged with the girl’s murder, authorities announced Tuesday.
Emiel Hunt, 38, appeared briefly in court Tuesday morning but did not enter a plea. His arraignment has been postponed until April 16.
Hunt was arrested Saturday after being found sleeping in his vehicle, which was parked near the San Diego International Airport, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.
He was booked at the Norwalk Sheriff’s Station later that day, inmate records show. His bail was set at $2 million.
Hunt is accused of killing Trinity Love Jones on or about March 1, roughly four days before her body was discovered, according to a news release from the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office.
Family members of the young victim said on Monday Hunt is the boyfriend of Trinity’s mother, Taquesta Graham.
They said Graham was also detained as a “person of interest” in the case and was being held on $2 million bail. It was unclear whether she was in custody, however, as a search of L.A. County inmate records Tuesday morning did not show anyone matching her name.
Hunt, meanwhile, has a prior child abuse conviction in San Diego County from 2005, according to the criminal complaint. Graham is a registered sex offender, having been convicted in 2009 of enticing a minor female for prostitution, according to the Megan’s Law website. She was last released in 2016 and reported to be living in Santa Fe Springs.
He faces a possible maximum sentence of 50 years to life in prison if convicted on the murder charge.
Authorities confirmed his arrest Tuesday, exactly one week after Trinity’s body was found by L.A. County maintenance workers at the bottom of an embankment.
One of the workers, who did not want to be identified, said they were trimming trees in the area when they noticed a duffel bag.
“We seen the little girl’s head, but at that point, we thought it was a little boy because you couldn’t really see, like, everything,” he said. “She was covered up with grass, like the bush was kind of covering her hair, and then she was wrapped up in a blanket, and she was stuffed in a duffel bag.”
He described the girl’s face as being peaceful, almost as if she were asleep.
Fighting back tears, the man said the first thing he thought of when they made the grim discovery was his own children. He became overcome with emotion at that point and the interview ended.
Trinity’s death has been ruled a homicide by the county coroner’s office, though authorities remain tight-lipped about how she died. Investigators have indicated they found no obvious signs of trauma on her body.
In a statement Sunday, sheriff’s investigators said more information would be released later this week during a news conference. They did not specify a date.