The court process for Jerice Hunter -- the woman accused of murdering her 5-year-old daughter, Jhessye Shockley, before tossing her body in the garbage -- may take a bit longer now, since Hunter is short an attorney.
The public-information office at the Maricopa County Superior Court says Hunter's case has been continued, since her private attorney withdrew due to lack of payment.
Court records show Hunter's been represented by attorney Scott Maasen, who started representing Hunter in late 2011.
That was long before Hunter was actually arrested on charges of first-degree murder and child abuse in Jhessye's death, as she was arrested on a grand jury warrant in September.
The case will be continued until an attorney's appointed to Hunter, although she's scheduled to be back in court on February 15.
As you may recall if you followed this case, Jhessye was reported missing in October, 2011, and Glendale police -- operating under the belief that Jhessye's body was in a landfill -- announced the end of a search for the girl's body in late June, although police still believed she was in there, somewhere.
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, 2011, 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 her arrest on the murder charge, 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. Even the reports released by Glendale police, totaling hundreds of pages, didn't reveal those answers.
That probably won't come out until a trial, which could possibly get started later, now that a new attorney has to get caught up.
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