Mother goes on trial in Jhessye Shockley’s 2011 disappearance

Mar 25, 2015, 5:30 AM | Updated: 3:08 pm

Opening statements in Jerice Hunter’s murder trial were delivered Wednesday in the Valley.

Hunter, of Glendale, is accused of murdering her 5-year-old daughter, Jhessye Shockley, who hasn’t been found after being reported missing on Oct. 11, 2011.

The jury-selection process in Hunter’s trial began more than three weeks ago.

Hunter, 41, has pleaded not guilty to child abuse and first-degree murder charges related to Shockley.

Investigators believe Shockley was killed and her body dumped in a trash bin days before Hunter reported her missing, although a 96-day search of a local landfill failed to yield a body.

“The defendant threw her away like trash,” prosecutor Jeannette Gallagher
told jurors.

Hunter told police she left Shockley at home with her older siblings while she was out running errands.

The mother was initially arrested in September 2012 and charged with murder. Her trial was originally scheduled for August 2014, but several delays pushed it back to March 2, 2015.

The original pool of jurors was about 120 people deep earlier this month.

Prior to Shockley’s disappearance, Hunter had a history with child abuse accusations. In October 2005, she was arrested in California on child abuse charges, and she served more almost four years of prison time after pleading no contest to corporal punishment.

Hunter squarely looked at jurors as the prosecutor laid out her case at the beginning of the trial.

Hunter’s attorney, Candice Shoemaker, said her client didn’t kill Jhessye and
believes her daughter is still alive.

“There is no body. There is no proof she
is dead,” said Shoemaker, who didn’t offer an alternative theory on what became
of the child.

Shoemaker said two people saw Shockley at her apartment complex within hours of
the report of her being missing.

The defense attorney also told jurors to take a hard look at the upcoming
testimony of Shockley’s older sister, who is now 17 years old and allegedly hasn’t spoken to her mother in three years. The older child
was in charge of Shockley when the 5-year-old turned up missing and didn’t
alleged abuse when she was first spoke to police, Shoemaker said.

Gallagher said it’s unknown whether Jhessye was killed by malnutrition,
dehydration or from injuries she suffered.

“The answer to that question will
never be known,” she said.

In the weeks before the child was reported missing, Hunter explained her
daughter’s 19-day absence from school by saying she had pink eye and ringworm
and provided inconsistent details to the girl’s school on efforts to get her
medical treatment, Gallagher said.

Authorities said Hunter had instructed her other children to lie to police by
falsely saying that Shockley left the apartment while the mother went to a
check-cashing business.

Shockley’s 17-year-old sister later revealed that she witnessed her
mother’s abuse of Shockley, saying that she found her younger sister beaten up
and describing the closet where she was locked up as smelling like death, the
prosecutor said.

Gallagher said Hunter got a neighbor to drive her from Glendale to a Tempe
apartment where Hunter said she was going to sell a suitcase full of clothes and
shoes. Once they arrived, Hunter told her neighbor that the buyer wasn’t there
and that the items up for sale could be left in a trash bin, the prosecutor

The neighbor saw Hunter put on plastic gloves, remove from the trunk the
suitcase that’s believed to contain the child’s decomposing body and drop it in
the trash, Gallagher said.

Hunter’s trial is expected to last until early May. The jury-selection process went about a week longer than anticipated.

Judge Rosa Mroz of Maricopa County Superior Court ruled Monday that video and audio recording of the trail will generally be permitted, but Mroz prohibited live-streaming.

She also barred video recording of the testimony of three particular witnesses, citing the impact it may cause on Hunter’s right to receive a fair trial.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Arizona Department of Public Safety Photo)...

Man arrested in Chandler after authorities find over 35 pounds of fentanyl

A man was arrested in Chandler last week after authorities seized over 35 pounds of fentanyl pills from his vehicle during a drug trafficking investigation. 
21 hours ago
(KTAR News Photo/Jim Cross)...

Monsoon storms brings rain to parts of Valley, more expected this week

Thunder and rain storms appeared across the Valley Wednesday evening, also bringing rain to metro Phoenix. 
21 hours ago
(El Mirage Police Department Video Screenshot)...
SuElen Rivera

El Mirage police release video of elementary school lockdown

The El Mirage Police Department on Tuesday released body-worn camera footage of an elementary school lockdown where three people were arrested last week. 
21 hours ago
FILE - A dead fish that used to be underwater sits on cracked earth above the water level on Lake M...
Associated Press

How new Colorado River cuts will impact Arizona, residents

Arizona and Nevada residents won't face bans on watering their lawns or washing their cars despite more Colorado River water shortages.
21 hours ago
(Twitter Photo/@DougDucey)...
Danny Shapiro

Sen. Mark Kelly says he understands Arizona Gov. Ducey’s initiative to close border wall gaps

U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona says he gets why Gov. Doug Ducey is filling in gaps at the U.S.-Mexico border.
21 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Children's Hospital Foundation)...

By the numbers: How Phoenix Children’s continues to provide lifesaving work

Here's how Phoenix Children's operation continues to flourish and save lives as our Give-A-Thon rolls on.
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
Mother goes on trial in Jhessye Shockley’s 2011 disappearance