Jhessye Shockley Search Ends Without a Trace of 5-Year-Old Girl's Body

The body of 5-year-old Jhessye Shockley will likely never be found after Glendale police announced today that the search of the Butterfield Landfill has been completed.

Rick St. John, assistant police chief, said at a press conference this afternoon that people have sifted through 9,500 tons of trash since February. But she wasn't in the area investigators had pinpointed.

"We didn't miss her," he said.

St. John said investigators know she's in the landfill somewhere, which has 691 acres full of garbage in total.

He added that there's "irrefutable evidence" she's there somewhere, although he declined to elaborate on what that evidence is.

Shockley was reported missing in October, and her mother, Jerice Hunter, is the prime suspect in her death.

Hunter -- who's served prison time for child abuse before for abusing her other children -- had kept Jhessye locked in a closet for quite some time before her disappearance, police said.

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 neighborhood boy.

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 her 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, and even yelled at New Times-turned-Village Voice scribe James King for asking her whether she hurt her daughter.

Of course, she yelled at King before police had their say, before Hunter was arrested, and before the documents were released alleging some specific abuse of Jhessye.

As of today, though, Hunter's still roaming the streets since charges were never filed, and she's pregnant again.

St. John said that even though Jhessye's body wasn't found, police believe they have enough evidence to charge Hunter, and are "very near" the point of presenting the case to the County Attorney's Office.

St. John noted that similar cases have been successfully prosecuted in the county without police ever finding a body.

When asked exactly how police believe Hunter killed Jhessye, St. John said, "I want to answer that question" -- but he didn't, saying he didn't want to compromise the investigation.

For now, though, there are no charges against Hunter, and there likely won't be a sign of Jhessye -- a fact that wasn't sitting well with Glendale police Commander Dave Madeya, who broke down while explaining how hard it is knowing that they're leaving her in the landfill.

"A little 5-year-old girl did not deserve this in her life," he said, later stating, "We did everything we possibly could -- humanly possible -- to find Jhessye."

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley