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Jerice Hunter, mother of missing Ariz. girl Jesse Shockley, pleads not guilty in 5-year-old's murder

Jhessye Shockley (left) and Jerice Hunter Glendale Police Department; Maricopa County Sheriffs Office

Jhessye Shockley (left) and Jerice Hunter
Glendale Police Department; Maricopa County Sheriffs Office
(CBS/AP) PHOENIX - Jerice Hunter, the mother of missing Arizona girl Jhessye Shockley, has pleaded not guilty to charges that she killed the 5-year-old child.

The Arizona Republic reports that Hunter pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and child abuse of her daughter, who has been missing for nearly a year.

Investigators believe Shockley's body was disposed of days before Hunter reported her missing Oct. 11 and told police that she left Jhessye with the girl's older siblings while she ran an errand and returned to find her gone.

A search of a landfill ended in late June without finding the girl's remains.

Hunter was previously arrested in November on suspicion of child abuse but later released with the charge dropped. Prosecutors said then that they wanted to continue investigating 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.

She was rearrested Sept. 6 after a grand jury returned an indictment against her.

Police records show Jhessye's siblings told investigators in the days after her disappearance that Hunter allegedly abused her and kept the girl in a closet.

In October 2005, Hunter was arrested with her then-husband on child abuse charges in California. Hunter pleaded no contest to corporal punishment and served about four years in prison before she was released on parole in May 2010.

Complete coverage of Jhessye Shockley on Crimesider

  • Crimesider Staff

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