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 Hacienda Heights has been charged with murder, authorities announced Tuesday.
Emiel Hunt, 38, appeared briefly in court on Tuesday morning but did not enter a plea. His arraignment has been postponed until April 16.
Hunt was arrested on 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 identified Hunt as the boyfriend of Trinity's mother, Taquesta Graham.
They said that Graham was also detained as a "person of interest" in the case and was being held on $2 million bail. Lead detective Marc Boisvert told KTLA she is in custody on a previous warrant unrelated to the case.
Detectives want to interview Graham to see if she was in anyway involved in her daughter's death, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Homicide Bureau Detective Marc Boivert said.
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.
Hunt, meanwhile, has a prior conviction for child abuse in San Diego County in 2005, according to the criminal complaint. He served at least 10 years in prison for abusing his biological son, Boivert said.
Hunt faces a possible maximum sentence of 50 years to life in prison if convicted on the murder charge.
Authorities just confirmed his arrest on 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, told KTLA in a brief but emotional interview on Monday that 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 told KTLA 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.