Police Believe Missing Girl Is Dead, Arrest Mother For Child AbuseS

Recently in two widely-reported missing children stories, both sets of parents complained that the police were treating them like suspects, not victims. Now it turns out that at least one girl's mother was right, and tragically, it seems there's little chance that the case will end with the girl's safe return.

Jhessye Shockley of Glendale, Arizona has been missing since October 11. Her mother, Jerice Hunter, says she went out to run errands and left the 5-year-old in their apartment while her other children were playing outside. When she came back Jhessye was gone. Hunter has attacked the media, saying they weren't covering the story because Jhessye is black, and also claimed that police were focusing too much on her past rather than trying to locate her daughter. While Hunter was pregnant with Jhessye, she was sentenced to eight years in prison for abusing her other children. Last month those children, along with a newborn, were removed from her care once again by State Child Protective Services, though they wouldn't say why.

Now the Associated Press reports that Hunter has been arrested on charges "directly related" to Jhessye. At a press conference yesterday investigators said they've recently uncovered new information about the case and now Hunter is their "number one focus." They added that they don't think Jhessye is alive, and they believe her mother "played a key role" in her disappearance.

Police searched Hunter's home when the girl first disappeared, and after obtaining a new warrant they looked through the apartment again yesterday. They've also increased the reward for information about the case to $25,000. "I'd like to make it very clear that this is by no means the end to this investigation," said Sgt. Brent Coombs. "Our investigators will continue to work diligently to locate Jhessye. This is just a step down that investigative path towards that final conclusion."

Jhessye was raised by relatives until her mother got out of prison, and some family members have told the media that they believe she was beating her. One of the cousins who cared for the Jhessye said that in the spring when they saw her at a family barbeque, "She cried really bad, telling us she wanted us to take her home. She wanted to go home now. We told her you can't come home with us now but you will later. She goes, 'I can't go later. I've got to go now.'"

Missing Girl's Mom Arrested On Child Abuse Charges [AP]
Police Suspect Mother In 5-Year-Old's Disappearance In Phoenix Suburb [NYT]

Earlier: Is Racism Behind The Underreporting Of A Missing Black Girl?