Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Missing Child Jhessye Shockley’s Mother Arrested for First Degree Murder

Jerice Hunter (left) and Jhessye Shockley

Jerice Hunter (left) and Jhessye Shockley

Jhessye Shockley, 5, seems to have joined the growing ranks of children reported missing by their killer, often a parent. On September 6 police in Glendale, Ariz., arrested Jerice Hunter for the murder of her daughter Jhessye, after she was indicted by a grand jury. “We are confident, with the indictment and arrest of Jerice Hunter today, we will achieve our … goal of securing justice for Jhessye,” Glendale interim police Chief Debora Black told reporters.

Jhessye was last seen on October 11, 2011, when, according to Hunter, Jhessye wandered out of their home unnoticed by her siblings, 13, 9, and 6, while Hunter ran an errand. Jhessye’s siblings told police a different story. They said that Hunter regularly deprived Jhessye of food and water, physically abused her and kept her locked in a closet. Hunter’s 13-year-old daughter told them that the last time she saw Jhessye was in September 2011, that her face was bruised and cut, her hair pulled out and she looked and smelled dead. Hunter was arrested on suspicion of child abuse and the children were removed from the home.

Police quickly came to the conclusion that Jhessye had been killed and her body dumped in the trash later. After searching the neighborhood and the trash, police prepared to search the landfill, but it took a while to get everything in order. During that time, Hunter held a “Find Jhessye” rally, and openly and publicly accused police and the media of not giving her child’s case attention because she was black, and Hunter a convicted criminal — convicted of child abuse in 2005, and sentenced to five years in prison. Hunter had only recently regained custody of her children.

In February of this year 280 law enforcement officers took on the daunting and dangerous task of searching 9,500 tons of landfill trash for Jhessye’s remains. On June 27 the search ended. “We believe that Jhessye is at her final resting place at the Butterfield Station Landfill,” Black said. “There’s nothing to be gained by continuing to search.”

Hunter, who is reportedly pregnant, continues to blame police for stonewalling her, while she proclaims her innocence and her desire to find Jhessye.

Slideshow: From Missing to Murdered

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