GLENDALE, AZ - The mother of a young girl missing for over a month has been arrested for child abuse and police admit it is unlikely the woman's 5-year-old daughter will be found alive.
During a 2 p.m. press conference Monday, Glendale police spokesman Brent Coombs confirmed Jerice Hunter has been taken into custody on child abuse charges "directly related to Jhessye" and "recent abuse."
Coombs said Hunter is the "number one focus" as police continue their investigation into Jhessye Shockley's October 11th disappearance.
Hunter was scheduled to appear in court for her initial appearance to face the child abuse charges Monday night.
Shortly before 10 p.m., the judge said her court appearance had been postponed until 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Glendale police tell ABC15 that prosecutors and detectives needed to file the proper child abuse charges, in which Hunter will be booked and arraigned upon on Tuesday.
While waiting for her court appearance, Hunter lashed out at members of the media inside the courtroom. She said, “Why are you here? Did the detectives set this up? I need to know who requested this.”
While shaking her head, at times covering her eyes, Hunter said, “Guilty until I can afford to prove my innocence, huh?”
Law enforcement in the courtroom instructed Hunter to maintain her silence and direct her questions to the judge.
A reward for information in the case has been increased to $25,000, according to Coombs.
Information recently obtained by police prompted investigators to take a closer look at Hunter, as well as her Glendale home, where they spent most of the day Monday.
Video from Air15 over the complex near 45th and Glendale avenues showed investigators in white jumpsuits searching Hunter's apartment.
The manager of the complex told ABC15 FBI agents and Glendale police officers converged on Hunter's home around 9 a.m.
ABC15 spoke with Jhessye Shockley's grandmother, Shirley Johnson, who said Hunter left the area with authorities Monday morning to be questioned.
Five-year-old Jhessye was reported missing October 11 after reportedly wandering away while her mother was on an errand.
Her four other children have been removed from her home and placed in protective custody as police continue their investigation.
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