Police now believe that missing 5-year-old Jhessye Shockley is dead, given details that have surfaced about abuse at the hands of her mother who also coached Jhessye’s siblings to lie about the last time they saw her.
According to the Associated Press, Jerice Hunter, 38, was arrested on a felony count of child abuse Monday—more than five weeks after she reported her daughter Jhessye missing. Although police didn’t say what specific new information they received that led to Hunter’s arrest, a probable cause statement concerning an interview with Hunter’s 13-year-old daughter, said the teenager recently began to talk to her foster mother about Jhessye, saying that “she was told by her mother, Jerice, to lie to police about Jhessye being missing.”
When police interviewed Jhessye’s sister, she said that she had not actually seen Jhessye the day she disappeared, contrary to her previous story. The document also states that the teen said several weeks ago Hunter became angry when she returned home to find Jhessye wearing a long T-shirt while watching TV with a neighbor boy, telling the girl she was a “ho” before taking her into a bedroom.
The teen said she could hear her sister screaming and crying in the room and that Hunter kept Jhessye in a bedroom closet and deprived her of food and water, and that she had seen the girl with black eyes and bruises and cuts to her face and body.
“(She) reported that Jhessye’s hair had been pulled out and described Jhessye as not looking alive and that she looked like a zombie,” the document said. “(She) said that the closet where Jhessye had been looked like a grave and smelled like dead people.”
The teen also said a few days before Jhessye disappeared her mother spent the entire day cleaning the apartment and cleaning her shoes from the closet with soap and bleach. Police said they found a receipt that showed Hunter bought food and a bottle of bleach two days before she reported her daughter missing.
At a news conference Monday, Glendale Police Sgt. Brent Coombs said authorities do not expect to find Jhessye alive, and that Hunter is the investigation’s “Number one focus.”
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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