On Wednesday Arizona police reported the biggest lead in the case of Jahessye Shockley, the five-year-old who has been missing for more than two months. Police believe the little girl was killed and that her body was dumped in a trash can before her mother reported her missing on Oct. 11.
"We're in what we believed to be the worst-case scenario from the beginning," Glendale Police Sgt. Brent Coombs said, the Associated Press reports. Combs reiterated Wednesday that the child’s mother is the “No. 1 focus.”
Jahessye’s mother, Jerice Hunter, was arrested last month on a child abuse charge “directly related” to her daughter, though the charge was later dropped. At the time, police told reporters that there was little hope that they would find the little girl alive. Coombs said new tips that came in following Hunter's arrest and evidence collected during search warrants led police to believe Jahessye's body was dumped in Tempe, Arizona.
Authorities firmly believe the child's body is in a landfill south of the Phoenix area, and they are now deciding whether to search for her. Decomposition will present a challenge to the search effort, Coombs said, making it difficult to pinpoint Jahessye’s exact location.
About six months before Jahessye disappeared, Hunter was investigated by state Child Protective Services, but police found no signs of abuse. Hunter had previously served about four years in prison for child abuse charges in California stemming back to a 2005 arrest. She was released on parole last May.
Hunter’s mother has said her daughter was rehabilitated and became a loving mother following her prison sentence, but disturbing testimony from one of Jahessye’s siblings suggests otherwise. According to court documents, Jahessye’s teenage sister told police that she hadn’t seen the child since September, the AP reports. She recalled an incident where she said Hunter locked Jahessye in a closet and wouldn’t give her food or water. The teen said she saw the girl with black eyes, bruises and cuts to her face and body. The teen told police that Jahessye looked like a “zombie” and that the closet she was kept in smelled like “dead people” and was “like a grave,” according to the documents.
Police say Hunter has been uncooperative in the investigation, and that she has refused to take a lie detector test. Hunter maintains her innocence.
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