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Mother of missing Arizona girl arrested on suspicion of abuse

November 21, 2011 |  4:15 pm

Jhessye shockley

What happened to Jhessye Shockley?

The 5-year-old Arizona girl’s disappearance made headlines last month after her mother, Jerice Hunter, accused the media and police of shortchanging her daughter’s case because the family is black and Hunter has a criminal history. 

On Monday, the mystery deepened.

Police in Glendale, Ariz., called a news conference to say that most of the tips they’d gotten lacked substance -- except for those involving Jhessye’s mother.

"She is our No. 1 focus," said Glendale Police Sgt. Brent Coombs, according to the Arizona Republic. 

Coombs announced that Hunter had been arrested on suspicion of child abuse “directly related to Jhessye,” the Associated Press reported. Authorities also served their second search warrant on Hunter’s apartment in suburban Phoenix.

Coombs also told reporters that police did not expect to find Jhessye alive. Authorities have said Jhessye’s three older siblings were the last people to see her on Oct. 11 before she wandered away from their mother's apartment while Hunter ran an errand. Police initially said Hunter was not a suspect.

In the days after Jhessye vanished, child welfare officials removed Jhessye’s siblings from Hunter’s care. After a pregnant Hunter gave birth, officials took the newborn away as well.

Hunter and her former husband, George Shockley, were arrested in California in 2005 on suspicion of child abuse, the Associated Press said. Hunter pleaded no contest and served about four years in prison.


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Photo: Jerice Hunter, left, the mother of missing 5-year-old Jhessye Shockley, holds a news conference in October with relative Brenda Hunter. Credit: Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press