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Amanda Lee Myers the Associated Press
Published: 21 November 2011

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Police said Monday they will release new information in the case of a 5-year-old Arizona girl who has been missing without a trace for more than a month.

Glendale police Sgt. Brent Coombs declined to provide details until a 2 p.m. news conference but said new information about the investigation will be released at that time.

Coombs did confirm that police were at the apartment of the girl's mother, Jerice Hunter, on Monday but he declined to say what investigators were doing there.

Television news footage showed police tape surrounding the apartment and men in white jumpsuits coming in and out.

Jhessye (JES'-ee) Shockley has been missing since Oct. 11, and police have said they believe she wandered from her Glendale apartment while Hunter was running an errand. The girl's three older siblings were the last to see her.

Police have repeatedly said they had no evidence, suspects or promising leads.

State Child Protective Services removed Hunter's four other children, including a newborn, from her home but have declined to say why, and police have said they had no involvement in that decision.

Hunter has come under scrutiny during the investigation for an October 2005 arrest with her then-husband George Shockley in California on child abuse charges. She pleaded no contest to corporal punishment and served about four years in prison before she was released on parole in May 2010.

Hunter's oldest child, 14 at the time, told police his mother routinely beat the children.

George Shockley is a convicted sex offender and is still in a California prison. Hunter has told reporters she didn't know about his past until they were arrested and now has nothing to do with him.

Hunter's mother, Shirley Johnson, said her daughter is a changed woman since she got out of prison and is a good mother to her children.

Johnson said Monday that police were talking to her daughter and that she was trying to find out what was going on.

"My heart is palpitating. I'm very anxious," Johnson said. "Right now I can't talk to anyone until I talk to the officers."

Hunter was eight months pregnant at the time of Jhessye's disappearance. While still pregnant, she demonstrated at the state capitol in Phoenix, saying her daughter's case wasn't getting the attention it deserved because she is black.

At the Oct. 24 rally, Hunter condemned members of the media for focusing too much on her past and said she had nothing to hide.

"I have been forthcoming with law enforcement from day one. I let them turn my home into a crime scene hours after I reported that I couldn't find my daughter," she said. "They didn't find anything, but they're holding my children hostage."

She also criticized the Glendale police department's investigation.

"We feel that law enforcement is not active in finding Jhessye and that they're more active in persecuting me instead of finding out where she is," Hunter said.

In the days following Jhessye's disappearance, more than 100 officers and volunteers searched for her in pools, garbage bins and shrubs. They interviewed and searched the homes of registered sex offenders in the area, and stopped at every door to spread news about the missing girl.

Police also cordoned off an area of a local landfill where garbage from Jhessye's neighborhood would have been taken the day of and day after her disappearance, but have not searched it.

Coombs said last week that the FBI was working to schedule a lie detector test with Hunter, but it was unclear whether that occurred.

FBI spokesman Manuel Johnson declined Monday to say whether the exam was held, or comment on the case.

The telephone at Hunter's home went unanswered Monday, and Johnson did not immediately return repeated calls for comment.


Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at http://twitter.com/(hash)!/AmandaLeeAP

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