| Crime |

Jerice Hunter Pleads Not Guilty to Abuse, Murder of 5-Year-Old Jhessye Shockley

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See also: Jhessye Shockley's Mother Jerice Hunter Arrested for Girl's Murder
See also: Jerice Hunter's Bond Set at $500,000

Jerice Hunter's still maintaining her innocence in the in the death of her 5-year-old daughter, Jhessye Shockley.

Hunter pleaded not guilty this morning to charges of child abuse and the first-degree murder, and is still being held on $500,000 bond.

The details of how police believe Hunter killed Jhessye likely won't be released until trial, as she was arrested on a grand jury warrant almost two weeks ago.

Jhessye was reported missing in October, and Glendale police announced the end of a search for the girl's body in late June.

Hunter -- who's served prison time for child abuse before for abusing her other children -- had always been the prime suspect in Jhessye's death.

According to court documents previously obtained by New Times, Jhessye's 13-year-old sister told her foster parents that several weeks before the little girl was reported missing, Hunter called Jhessye a "ho" and dragged her into a bedroom, where they heard Jhessye screaming and crying.

She did this, police say, because she came home and found Jhessye watching TV with a boy from their neighborhood.

Jhessye's sister also told police about Hunter keeping Jhessye locked in the closet, according to the documents, as she'd give her sister water and let her out of the closet when Hunter was gone.

Jhessye's sister added that she was missing patches of hair, and the closet she was locked in smelled like "dead people."

Jhessye's sister also said that two days before Hunter reported Jhessye missing, she bought a bottle of bleach and cleaned her entire apartment, and scrubbed down a pair of shoes that she kept in the same closet Jhessye was locked in.

Since reporting her daughter missing on October 11, Hunter has proclaimed her innocence and blamed her daughter's disappearance on just about everyone.

Hunter was arrested in November on child-abuse charges related to Jhessye's disappearance, but she was released shortly thereafter since the charges weren't actually filed.

Up until a couple weeks ago, Hunter had been free to roam the streets.

Although Jhessye's body wasn't found, police said in late June that investigators believed they had enough evidence to charge Hunter.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has said on several occasions that his office has successfully prosecuted murder cases without a body several times.

Still, how Jhessye was killed -- or why police believe Hunter killed her -- has been kept under wraps.

Her next court date is scheduled for November 1.

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