A jury found Jerice Hunter guilty Monday of murdering her 5-year-old daughter, Jhessye Shockley, in 2011.
Hunter was the one to report Jhessye missing to police and even went to the state Capitol to bash police for not finding the girl.
"I really think they should take the focus off of me and quit asking people . . . if I did something to my daughter," Hunter told then-New Times reporter James King about two weeks after Hunter reported her daughter missing.
Meanwhile, Glendale police believed that Hunter had killed her little girl and thrown her body in the trash. A neighbor said she had given Hunter a ride to a Tempe apartment complex, under the guise that she was selling clothes to someone there so she could get money to feed her children.
Police believed the suitcase Hunter brought with her actually contained Jhessye's body. Hunter threw the suitcase in a dumpster at the apartment complex, explaining to her neighbor that she was directed by the clothes buyers to leave the clothes in the dumpster if they weren't home.
This led to Glendale police and several other agencies conducting a lengthy, massive search of a landfill where the suitcase would have ended up. Shockley's body never was recovered, so prosecutors had to prove the case without the body and without anyone witnessing the murder.
The defense argued that there was simply no proof that Jhessye isn't alive right now.
Witnesses described various serious abuses of Jhessye, and one witness saying they'd seen Jhessye being kept in a closet where police found blood-stained carpet. Hunter's other children had been in and out of CPS custody, and Hunter had actually served prison time before for child abuse.
The jury found Hunter guilty yesterday of child abuse and first-degree murder.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery issued a statement after the verdict was read, stating, "We never forgot Jhessey and may the memory of her suffering and the end of a life that came all too soon motivate continuous changes to our child welfare system to protect the most innocent and defenseless among us."
The Glendale Police Department also issued a statement:
"We are pleased with the jury's decision today as it assures justice does prevail against an individual responsible for the unimaginable crime of murdering a child. While the verdict provides some sense of satisfaction, it does not diminish the loss suffered by the family who loved Jhessye or lessen the tragedy a community endures when a child is murdered."
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