At a rally outside the Arizona State Capitol on Monday, the mother of a missing 5-year-old girl begged for her return and lashed out at members of the local media for casting suspicion on her.
Jerice Hunter urged whoever has her daughter, Jhessye Shockley, to drop her off someplace safe, saying, “Please bring my baby back home…She’s scared. She’s scared. Please, I know she’s scared.”
When asked by a KNXV reporter if she had harmed Jhessye, though, Hunter responded loudly, “"It is very unfair to ask me that. Do I look like I hurt my daughter? Do I look like I hurt my daughter? Do I look like I hurt my daughter?"
She claimed that Glendale police have not done enough to find Jhessye, who she reported missing two weeks ago when she returned from running an errand and the girl was gone from their apartment. Monday’s rally was intended to raise public awareness of the case.
“My baby could be anywhere by now because they refused to believe that this black woman didn’t do nothing to her child,” Hunter said.
Hunter also criticized the media for bringing up her past, which includes pleading no contest to charges of causing injuries to her older children in California in 2006. At the time, she admitted to whipping one of her kids with an extension cord, according to court documents obtained by KNXV.
Hunter had told KNXV before a vigil on Saturday that news reports about her criminal history were endangering her family by letting her ex-husband, a registered sex offender currently incarcerated in California, know where she is. She did not elaborate on that claim.
During Monday’s rally, Hunter complained about the decision by Child Protective Services to remove her other children from her home.
“You done locked my other kids away like primates in a laboratory,” she said.
Jhessye’s grandmother, Shirley Johnson, attended a hearing on custody of the children on Monday, according to KPNX, but she was not allowed to discuss what happened afterward.
Johnson and Hunter have alleged that police and the media are not devoting enough resources to Jhessye’s case because she is black. Police spokesman Sgt. Brent Coombs adamantly denied that allegation last week, saying authorities do not care about a missing child’s race or nationality. They just want to find her.
Coombs said police have no suspects in the case, but they consider everyone who knew Jhessye a person of interest.
The Glendale Police Department and Silent Witness are offering an $11,000 reward for information leading to Jhessye’s return. Family members have told KNXV that they are also offering a $5,000 reward. To be eligible for the $11,000 reward, tips must be called in to 480-WITNESS (949-6377).