New details in Jhessye Shockley case

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GLENDALE, Ariz.--Three weeks after 5-year-old Jhessye Shockley was reported missing from her Glendale apartment, police still have few solid leads, but there are now new questions about when the little girl was last seen.

Glendale police say Jhessye was absent from kindergarten for a "period of time" because of "what can best be described as a communicable illness," in the days before her disappearance.

Sgt. Brent Coombs of the Glendale Police Department says residents of the area have said they saw Jhessye at her apartment complex as recently as the Sunday before her reported disappearance on Tuesday, Oct. 11.

Jhessye's mother, Jerice Hunter, says she went out to run an errand that afternoon, leaving Jhessye in the care of her older children. But when she returned, Hunter says Jhessye was gone.

Karla Brown, who lives several doors down from Hunter, says she last saw Jhessye playing in the courtyard of the Autumn Leaves apartment complex about a week before the reported disappearance.

Another neighbor, Katherine White, said she is sure she saw Jhessye playing with White's granddaughter on Oct. 6.

The conflicting information all makes for more questions in this already mysterious case.

Hunter came and went from her apartment on Tuesday but did not want to speak with reporters.

She gave birth to another baby last week, but that baby was removed from her custody by Child Protective Services, according to a relative.

Hunter's other three children are also in CPS custody.

Hunter served prison time in California for child abuse, but police say she is not a suspect in Jhessye's disappearance.

Investigators say they are still working to determine an appropriate time for a polygraph test to be administered to Hunter.

Sgt. Coombs said a seasoned criminal investigator with homicide experience is now leading this case.

"There was no major event or occurrence in the investigation that caused this. ... We are just looking to the future and long term if this case goes in that direction," Coombs said in an e-mail.

Anyone with information about Jhessye Shockley is asked to call 623-930-HELP (4357). There is a reward of at least $11,000 for information that leads police to the little girl.