It has been reported, 5-year old Jhessye Shockley wandered out of her Glendale residence on October 11, 2011 and vanished. She had been with her siblings, ages 13, 9. and 6 who had been watching her. Jhessye’s mother, Jerice Hunter, reported her child missing to Glendale Police Department after she said she had returned home from running an errand and could not find Jhessye. She reported she had left to run to a local check cashing business locking the door behind her and returned to find the door unsecured. A beautiful little girl who dreamed of being a ballerina seemingly has disappeared into thin air.
Since Jhessye’s disappearance, Glendale Police have conducted an intense investigation but have indicated leads are just not panning out. When a child goes missing it is initial investigative procedure to closely examine the family dynamics and substantiate information provided by family members in order to rule them out as suspects. The investigation into Jhessye’s disappearance has been no different. Recently, information about, Jhessye’s mother, Hunter, focused the ensuing investigation closer to home.
Soon after the child was reported missing, Hunter was pleading for the help on local and national news broadcasts and investigators began interviewing Jhessye’s siblings and other family members. Despite begging for the public to help bring her child home, it is reported that Hunter has been less than cooperative with police, even refusing a polygraph test.
Due to the time that has passed since Jhessye’s disappearance there is much concern for her safety. In fact, it has been reported that Sgt. Coombs from Glendale Police Department has stated it is not likely the child will be found alive. Given the new developments in the case, even statistically speaking the likelihood of Jhessye being recovered alive grows slimmer day by day.
Court documents that have been released have shed some light on the outcome of the police interviews of the remaining children. According to the documents released publicly, Jhessye’s older sister told police that she found her little sister in her mother’s closet, unresponsive, eyes bruised and her hair pulled out. She also states her Hunt thoroughly cleaned the apartment and her shoes in the closet after Jhessye’s disappearance. There is also a major discrepancy in the time frame the little girl may have vanished and Hunt’s delay reporting Jhessye missing. The older sibling indicates she had not seen her sister since September but Hunt only reported Jhessye missing on October 11th.
Police also discovered that Hunt has a prior history of child abuse and a report made to Child Protective Services as recent as April 13, 2011. During the initial police interview of the three siblings, all reported they saw Jhessye the day she was reported missing and told investigators they were told to help clean leaves in the rear yard but never saw their sister again.
All three remaining children were removed from the home by Child Protective Services and placed in foster care. It was while talking to the foster mother that the 13yr old sibling admitted her mother had told all the children to lie about Jhessye’s disappearance. She then admitted that Hunt had returned home one day and found Jhessye in the living room with a young neighbor boy and became furious calling 5yr old Jhessye a “Ho.” The older sister claims her mother proceeded to take Jhessye into her bedroom and she could hear her little sister screaming.
In the days following, the older sibling said Jhessye was kept in her mother’s bedroom closet but when her mother would leave she would take her little sister out and give her food and water, placing her back in the bedroom closet so Jhessye would not get in trouble upon her mother’s return. She further claimed Jhessye had several cuts and bruises to her face and body.
Jhessye’s 9yr old and 6yr old siblings also corroborate their older sister’s story, reporting seeing bruises and Jhessye’s eyes black prior to her disappearance. One of the children described Jhessye as looking like a ‘Zombie’ with her hair pulled out and said the closet looked like a grave and smelled like dead people. According to the children, Hunter placed incense in a purple and green container to hide the odor.
The children also stated their mother spent an entire day cleaning the home using soap and bleach in the closet. Credit card transactions confirm Hunter purchased several food items and bleach at Walgreens on October 9, 2011.
School records also substantiate the children’s claims that Jhessye disappearance occurred prior to the October 11th police report. School records indicate her last day of school was on September 22, 2011 and documented Hunter claimed her daughter had ringworm and then later pink eye but never confirmed by a medical professional.
Hunter was arrested November 23, 2011 and currently held on $100,000 bond. While Hunter is being held on allegations of child abuse, the Commissioner informed Hunter she was the suspect in her daughter’s homicide. Based upon information presented ,Jhessye is not expected to be found alive but her case remains an active homicide investigation.
This will not be the first time Hunter has faced prison time. She served 3 years in a California penitentiary after being convicted of abusing Jhessye’s older siblings. Released last year, Hunter moved to an apartment in Glendale, AZ.
Clearly, Jhessye’s disappearance may have been preventable had the children been appropriately interviewed and removed from the home when a report had been made to Child Protective Services in April. Jhessye’s disappearance follows an announcement by Maricopa County Bill Montgomery that a new Arizona Child Safety Task Force and CPS reform is underway that will assign a special unit of investigators to conduct the initial screening on child abuse calls.
The Arizona Child Safety Task Force conducted it’s first public meeting on November 16, 2011. It has been stated Governor Jan Brewer received a tip that CPS had a backlog of approximately 9,903 non-active but open cases becoming the catalyst to creating the new task force.
Meanwhile, the search continues for Jhessye and we can only hope that her tragic story, along with the so many other children who have died due to child abuse after a report and investigation was conducted by CPS does create the urgency and reform needed to save innocent lives.
Author – Kym L. Pasqualini
Founder, National Center for Missing Adults
& Social Network Advocate
Missing Persons Advocacy Network
Phone: 800-889-3463 (FIND)