Missing girl's mother makes initial court appearance - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Missing girl's mother makes initial court appearance

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PHOENIX -

Jerice Hunter, the mother of Jhessye Shockley, who has been missing since October 2011, is behind bars in connection with the death of her daughter.

So far, prosecutors have released very few details about the evidence in the case and little Jhessye's body still hasn't been found.  But prosecutors say they are convinced Hunter is responsible for her daughter's death.

Hunter made her first court appearance early Friday morning.  She didn't say much -- she only gave her name and birth date.

The judge set Hunter's bail at $500,000, but valley attorney David Green says prosecutors may have a tough time getting a conviction.

"Can they prove that in fact someone was murdered?  And without a body, again that's difficult for the prosecution to do," he said.

Hunter was arrested Thursday afternoon and charged with child abuse and the murder of Jhessye.  Hunter was booked into the 4th Avenue Jail and a grand jury indicted her on the charges.

Hunter's attorney, Scott Maasen, told us he was surprised to hear about the arrest.

"Now we're going to see what the facts are, what's their theory or what they think happened and whether they'll be able to prove it," he said.

An extensive landfill search for Jhessye's remains ended in July without any discovery of evidence.

"Candidly, it is easier to prove if there actually is a body and you can prove that someone was actually killed or murdered," said Greene.

Greene says plenty of people have been convicted on murder charges without a body being found -- it all depends on the evidence presented to the jury.

"What is a jury going to believe, what evidence is the jury allowed to hear?  And ultimately, the judge is the gatekeeper of the evidence," he said.

Jerice Hunter was arrested on child abuse charges back in November of 2011. She was released days later because no charges were filed.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has prosecuted cases without a body before.

"We took everything that we had at the conclusion of the landfill, which was important that we finished the search of the landfill -- we've been working since that day, since the end of the search, that's how we reached the point that we did today," said Glendale Police Chief Debora Black at a Thursday press conference when the charges were announced.

Prosecutors say Hunter is expected in court Sept. 13 for an arraignment.

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