Arizona mother arrested in death of missing daughter

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 07, 2012 1:21 AM
Arizona mother arrested in death of missing daughter

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - An Arizona mother was re-arrested on Thursday in connection with the year-long disappearance of her 5-year-old daughter and was jailed on first-degree murder and child abuse charges, authorities said.

Jerice Hunter, 38, was taken into custody without incident in her suburban Phoenix home after being indicted by a state grand jury on charges stemming from the presumed slaying of her child, Jhessye Shockley, police said.

Authorities have said the child's body was likely dumped in a trash can that made its way to landfill south of Phoenix, but officers spent four months combing through some 9,500 tons of trash without finding a trace of the girl.

Glendale Police Chief Debora Black said that while investigators had so far been unable to recover a body, authorities succeeded in holding "the person responsible for her disappearance accountable."

"We are confident with the indictment and arrest today, we will achieve our second goal of securing justice for Jhessye," Black said.

Hunter's lawyer, Scott Maasen, said he is convinced that his client will be cleared of the charges and questioned the time it took to bring the indictment.

"She's said from day one that she had no involvement in the disappearance of her daughter, and that's never changed," Maasen told Reuters late on Thursday.

Jhessye was first reported missing by Hunter on October 11, 2011. Hunter told police that she had left the girl in the care of her older children while out running an errand and when she returned home the child was nowhere to be found.

The mother was arrested in November on suspicion of child abuse in connection with the disappearance, but no formal charges were filed, and she was released.

Police said investigators continued to build their case with interviews of additional witnesses and family, leading to the indictment.

(Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Steve Gorman and Jackie Frank)