Landfill search for missing Glendale girl to continue

GLENDALE, AZ - A weeklong search of a landfill south of Phoenix for a missing Glendale girl has so far come up empty, but police say they'll continue their quest Monday.

Investigators are optimistic they'll find the remains of 5-year-old Jhessye Shockley in the Butterfield Station Landfill 50 miles south of Phoenix, said Officer Tracey Breeden, a Glendale police spokeswoman.

"We still know that it could take several weeks to do what we have to do and accomplish our goal," Breeden said.

Crews are getting the hang of sifting through piles of trash and have found items from the day they believe Jhessye's body was dumped in a Tempe trash bin, Breeden told the Arizona Republic.

The search team, comprising officers from Glendale and other local and federal law enforcement agencies, will return Monday and continue searching "article by article" through up to 6,000 tons of compacted trash.

Police have said the girl's mother, Jerice Hunter, is the primary focus of their investigation. They believe Jhessye's body was disposed of days before Hunter reported her missing on Oct. 11.

Hunter's attorney, Scott Maasen, has said that his client is not responsible for her daughter's disappearance.

"At this point there hasn't been one piece of evidence that's been released that shows Jerice Hunter has anything to do with her daughter's disappearance," he told The Associated Press on Monday.

Police arrested Hunter in November on suspicion of child abuse related to Jhessye. They released her from jail a day later and dropped the charge against her after prosecutors said they wanted to investigate further and were worried that Hunter would not be eligible for a potential murder charge if she was convicted of abusing Shockley, a situation known as double jeopardy.

Glendale police Detective Beth Diaz, who is volunteering her time to search the landfill, said that cool, breezy weather and her upbeat colleagues have kept up morale during the meticulous task.

Diaz said crews work, eat and share "funny stories" together throughout the day.

"This is a necessary part of the investigation," she said. "We are all convinced that we will find her."