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Jhessye Shockley Missing: Ariz. girl's family suing police, child protective services, for $10M

Jhessye Shockley Credit: File, AP Photo/Glendale Police Department

(CBS/KPHO) PHOENIX - The family of missing Arizona 5-year-old Jhessye Shockley has filed a $10 million wrongful death claim, alleging state agencies did not do enough to prevent the girl from suffering abuse at the hands of her mother.

According to CBS affiliate KPHO, family members say they are not after money but trying to get justice for Jhessye with their suit, which accuses the Glendale Police Department and Child Protective Services of gross negligence.

Investigators say that Jhessye was killed and her body dumped in a trash bin before her mother, Jerrice Hunter, reported her missing on Oct. 11, 2011. They never found a body, but Hunter was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the girl's death.

Family members reportedly said they previously told police and CPS their suspicions of abuse suffered by Jhessye and her sisters at the hands of their mother.

"They had a chance to save her life and they chose to sweep it under the rug," Jhessye's cousin Lisa Vance said, KPHO reports. "However it happened, they didn't save her and she should have been saved."

"I know for a fact that me and my immediate family, we did everything possible," Vance reportedly said. "We did everything by the book to try to not only get Jhessye out of the home, but we were trying to get all of the children out of the home."

The family's attorney, Dwane Cates, says that police never looked into his clients' reports of suspected abuse. Police instead turned the case over to Child Protective Services, which took little action, KPHO reports.

"The Glendale Police Department did no investigation," Cates said. "They didn't even go talk with Jerice Hunter. They didn't do anything."

In another development, Shirley Johnson, Jhessye's grandmother who cared for and had legal custody of Jhessye's three older sisters while Hunter was in prison, was in juvenile court for a severance hearing Wednesday afternoon, KPHO reports.

According to the station, the state of Arizona is trying to strip Johnson of her legal guardianship of the three girls, who have been in foster care since Jhessye went missing.

Johnson is reportedly fighting the state's efforts, hoping to get the children out of foster care, maintain her guardianship and take the girls to California where Johnson lives.

Complete coverage of Jhessye Shockley on Crimesider

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