An Arizona mother kept her daughter locked in a closet, starved and beat her for years until eventually she killed the little girl, stuffed her body into a suitcase and threw it in the trash, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday as the woman’s trial got under way.
Jerice Hunter, 41, is facing murder charges in the death of 5-year-old Jhessye Shockley, who went missing in 2011 from her family’s suburban Phoenix home.
Authorities believe the child is no longer alive. Her remains were never found.
‘The defendant threw her away like trash,’ prosecutor Jeannette Gallagher told the jury in her opening statement. 'All that is left of Jhessye is her blood on the carper in her mother's closet.'
Hunter has maintained her innocence.
She reported Jhessye missing in October 2011. Police say the mother told them she left Jhessye with the girl's older siblings while she ran errands, and returned to the family's Glendale apartment to find the child gone.
About 100 police officers who fanned across Hunter's neighborhood knocked on doors and stopped motorists to see if they knew anything about the disappearance. An Amber alert was issued.
A 96-day search of a landfill ended without finding Jhessye's remains.
Authorities say Hunter was arrested after inconsistencies with her account were mounting and after witnesses came forward.
Hunter also came under scrutiny during the investigation for an October 2005 arrest with her then-husband on child abuse charges in California.
In that case, the mother pleaded no contest to corporal punishment and served about four years in prison before she was released on parole in May 2010. Her oldest child, then 14, told police his mother routinely beat the children.