The Glendale Police Department tells New Times its investigation into the disappearance of 5-year-old Jahessye Shockley is its "number one priority." But that's not enough for the girl's mother, Jerice Hunter, who continues to publicly bash the police, claiming they're not doing enough to find her daughter.
Hunter and other members of Shockley's family held missing person signs at the State Capitol this afternoon, and criticized police and Child Protective Services for treating Hunter like a suspect.
"I want to talk to Jan Brewer," Hunter, at one point, yelled at the building behind her.
Hunter tells New Times that what she considers to be an unsatisfactory investigation by the Glendale P.D. isn't about race -- which is contrary to what the girl's grandmother said last week -- but then says police would pay more attention if the girl was white because "if you're white you're right."
"It aint about color but what's real is real," she continues. "We in the state of Arizona. This is the last state that fought tooth and nail to make Martin Luther King's birthday a holiday...ya'll can't keep doing us like this. You done locked my other kids away like primates in a laboratory and you do not care."
When asked what she thinks authorities should be doing to find her missing daughter, Hunter -- who's served prison time for child abuse, is currently pregnant, and recently had her other three children taken into CPS custody -- says they need to start by not treating her like a suspect.
"I really think they should take the focus off of me and quit asking people -- wasting time -- if I did something to my daughter," Hunter says. "They should quit holding my babies hostage and trying to get them to say something [about what happened to Jahessye]. [Authorities are] telling me 'your kids aren't saying anything.' It's been 13 days. What do they expect my babies to say that they haven't already said? [CPS] don't wanna hear 'we love our mama, we wanna go home we want our mommy' -- they don't wanna hear that. They won't let me see them because
they don't want them running into my arms. They don't wanna hear them scream 'mommy.'
"If I was so disconnected from my children why does CPS call me to ask me how to get my baby to eat?"
It should be noted that over the course of our interview, Hunter seemed more concerned with getting back her children who are now in CPS custody than she is with finding Jahessye, who's been missing for nearly two weeks.
Josie Hunter, Shockley's aunt, says she gives the Glendale P.D. no credit for getting the media to pay attention to the case.
"It's because of the family and the community that [the case] got out to the national news. It's not because of the Glendale officials, police, or government officials," she tells New Times. "[Glendale police] should be using those billboards [on highways] to put up the missing photo of Jahessye and so many other missing children."
Last week, Shockley's grandmother, Shirley Johnson, told reporters the media and police aren't doing all they could to find her missing granddaughter because of her race.
"It is because she is a little black kid," Johnson told reporters. "Arizona is known for this."
Glendale Sergeant Brent Coombs says the family's allegations against the police are without merit.
"Although we realize that emotions are running high in the family, nothing could be further from the truth," Coombs tells New Times. "The Glendale Police Department's commitment to this case has been unwavering since the first day we responded. This is our department's number one priority. This is about finding a beautiful little 5-year-old girl, who seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. It is our mission to find Jahessye and bring the person or persons to justice who are responsible for her disappearance."
In addition to Jerice Hunter's child abuse conviction, Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts recently spoke to a relative of Hunter's who says she's called CPS several times to report her for abusing her children.
From the Republic:
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A relative who helped raise a missing 5-year-old Glendale girl says she called Child Protective Services several times to report her suspicions that the girl and her older sister were being abused.
Mahogany Hightower, one of four cousins who took care of Jahessye Shockley for the first four years of her life, told me she last saw the little girl in April, at a family barbecue.
"She cried really bad, telling us she wanted us to take her home," Hightower said. "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.'"
Shockley, police say, wandered away from siblings -- who were caring for her at her family's apartment at the time -- a little before 5 p.m. on October 11, and hasn't been seen since.described as a black female, approximately 3-foot-5, 55 pounds, and has black hair and brown eyes. She has long hair that was in a ponytail at the time of her disappearance.
She was last seen wearing a solid white T-shirt, blue jean shorts, and pink flip flops.
Anyone with information about Shockley's disappearance should call the Glendale Police Department at 623-930-3000.