Mother of missing 5-year-old has criminal history

GLENDALE, AZ - The ABC15 Investigators have learned the mother of a missing 5-year-old Glendale girl has a criminal history.

According to court documents , Jerice Hunter served prison time in California for "injury to a child."

Police are not calling Hunter a suspect or even a person of interest in her child's disappearance.

Glendale Police Officer Tracey Breeden said police are aware of Hunter's criminal history, but declined to provide specific details, saying, "our primary goal remains focused on Jahessye's safe return."

Hunter pleaded no contest to four counts of causing injuries to her children.

In October 2005, the children's grandmother called police after she noticed a cut on her 3-year-old granddaughter's leg. Three other children in the home also had cuts and scars on their bodies.

Records show Hunter's 14-year-old son told police she had repeatedly punched him and whipped him with sticks over a two-year period.

Police said Hunter's husband -- a registered sex offender -- also participated in the abuse by holding one of the children down.

The records include statements from one child who told police the husband whipped her sister five to six times a day, up to three times a week, and all of the children said the abuse occurred for years.

In January 2006, prosecutors dropped torture charges against Hunter in exchange for a plea of no contest. Hunter's lawyers asked for probation, but the state's probation department said she was a threat to the well being of her children. Hunter was sentenced to eight years in prison.

She appealed the sentence, but the court denied her appeal.

Hunter's eight-year sentence was imposed in early 2006, and we don't know why she is now out of prison. We're checking with authorities in California for the circumstances behind her release.

Jhessye Shockley was reported missing around 5 p.m. Tuesday from an apartment near Glendale and 43rd avenues. An Amber Alert was issued Wednesday morning and remains in effect as authorities continue canvassing around the Valley.

Glendale Police Sgt. Brent Coombs said Thursday that police have received a couple dozen tips regarding this case, from as far as northern Arizona.

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