Arizona woman goes on trial in daughter's disappearance

It has been nearly four years since Jhessye Shockley disappeared. Her mother is now on trial, accused of killing the 5-year-old and throwing her body in the dumpster.

On Wednesday, the jury heard opening arguments from both sides.

FOX 10 has learned more about what police believe happened to Jhessye, that her mother put her in a suitcase and threw her away in a Tempe dumpster.

Defense attorneys say the body has never been found, and the state is only assuming the 5-year-old is dead.

Jerice Hunter showed little emotion as she sat in the courtroom, accused of killing her 5-year-old daughter. Jhessye's birthday is next week; she would have been 9-years-old.

"Jhessye doesn't have birthdays anymore because she died at the hands of her mother, the defendant Jerice Hunter," said prosecutor Jeanette Gallagher.

Prosecutors say they can prove Hunter beat and killed Jhessye, and locked her in a closet without food or water.

"She was keeping her out of school because she couldn't let anyone see all the bruises on her body from the beatings she administered," said Gallagher. 

"After Jhessye died the defendant threw her little body away in someone's garbage, her remains have never been found. All that is left of Jhessye is her blood on the carpet in her mother's closet. 

Police say a neighbor will testify she drove Hunter to drop off a suitcase. Hunter claimed it was filled with old clothes and shoes she was selling for money.

"The defendant said if she smelled something bad it was probably the shoes in the suitcase," she said.

Prosecutors say the odor was not from old shoes but from Jhessye's decomposing body. They say Hunter threw the suitcase in the trash.

But defense attorneys disagree, saying the state is assuming Jhessye is dead, and they have not found her body, and the only thing Hunter wants is to find her daughter. They added that Jhessye's kindergarten teacher will testify Jhessye wasn't abused.

"No marks, there were no signs of abuse, there were no causes of concern," said defense attorney Candice Shoemaker.

Defense attorneys say Jerice Hunter did not abuse or kill her daughter, and she refuses to give up hope that her daughter will be found one day.

This could become an emotional trial. Jerice Hunter's oldest daughter who is now 17 is expected to testify against her mother.

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