If the name Jhessye Shockley rings a bell, it's probably because you were hearing it a lot last fall. The 5-year-old Arizona girl disappeared from her home on October 11, 2011, and she's still missing. But here's something that could finally give us answers in her case: her mom, Jerice Hunter, has been arrested.
Or maybe I should say "arrested again." Hunter has been charged with first-degree murder and child abuse. Although they haven't found Jhessye, prosecutors allege she's dead and that her mom is to blame. If it's true, this could be the best chance of finding out what happened to her.
Sadly, I think a lot of us saw this day coming. Because as we heard more about the day that Jhessye went missing, we also heard more about Jerice Hunter's shady past.
Jerice Hunter lost custody of her three older kids -- the oldest of whom was 13 at the time -- more or less immediately after it was reported that the 5-year-old was left home alone with them the day she disappeared. A few weeks later, Jerice gave birth, and that baby was removed from her care as well. Social services had merit: Jerice had served time in a California prison for corporal punishment of children. The Golden State has placed restrictions on her access to her kids, and because she'd given custody to Jhessye shortly before her incarceration, the little girl spent much of her early years being raised by someone else.
To top it all off, she spent much of last fall refusing to cooperate with police and spouting off in the media about how they were racist. She wasn't exactly acting like your typical concerned mom wondering where her daughter was. And cops say that Jhessye's siblings said their mom abused their little sister and would lock her in a closet.
Cops arrested Hunter last year on child abuse charges in hopes that they could flush out some information about what happened to the missing girl. It didn't work -- the charges were dropped. Here we are nearly a year later, and we don't have answers.
Then again, they only charged her with child abuse. Maybe it wasn't scary enough for a woman who had already done hard time for whipping her kids with an extension cord.
Now Jerice Hunter is facing first-degree murder. That's the kind of charge that could put her away for life. Maybe this is what she needed: another arrest, a real wake-up call. If that doesn't scare her into cooperating, I don't know what will.
Do you think arresting this mom on murder charges will give us answers?
Image via Missing Kids