GLENDALE, AZ - A woman facing charges for the murder of her daughter was booked into jail on a $500,000 bond.
Glendale police said Jerice Hunter was arrested Thursday for the murder of Jhessye Shockley.
Glendale Interim Chief of Police Debora Black said during an afternoon press conference that Hunter was arrested without incident around 1:30 p.m. at her home in Mesa.
Glendale police, working in conjunction with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and other law enforcement partners, moved forward with the case after a warrant was issued for the arrest of Hunter, based upon a Grand Jury indictment handed down late Thursday morning.
"We believe that Jhessye is at her final resting place at the Butterfield Station Landfill," said Black. "There's nothing to be gained by continuing to search that, we searched the most likely area and did not have success, our efforts were exhausted."
Police ended an unsuccessful search for the girl at the landfill at the end of June after 96 search days.
While Jhessye, who was 5 years old at the time of her disappearance, has not been located, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said that the lack of a body does not provide an impediment to the case.
"My office has successfully prosecuted homicide cases over the last couple years where the body was never found," Montgomery said during the news conference, "and certainly in this particular instance with the totality of the evidence gathered over the course of the investigation and the quality of the evidence that was obtained not only securing an indictment, also led us to believe there was a reasonable likelihood of conviction at this point."
Black said it took until now to make this arrest in the case because of the time it took to search the landfill.
Hunter faces a count of first degree murder, a class 1 felony and dangerous crime against children and child abuse, a class 2 felony and dangerous crime against children.
Police have said they believe Jhessye's body was disposed of days before her mother reported her missing at an apartment complex near Glendale and 45th avenues on October 11, 2011.
Hunter had spoken to the media several times since Jhessye's disappearance, maintaining her innocence. "Does it look like I hurt my daughter? Does it look like I hurt her?" she asked on one occasion.
“For the past 11 months, the men and women of the Glendale Police Department and our partners from local, state and federal law enforcement worked tirelessly to accomplish two goals: to find Jhessye and to hold 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.
“I commend our law enforcement partners for their refusal to give up on this case. Thanks to their diligence and hard work, we now have an opportunity to seek justice for Jhessye and uncover the truth behind her disappearance,” Montgomery said.
Police records show Jhessye's siblings told investigators Hunter had abused Jhessye and kept her in a closet where they heard screams.
Hunter was arrested last November on one felony count of child abuse, but was released from jail because charges were not filed against her before a deadline passed, according to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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