Family defends Jerice Hunter; neighbors feel "betrayed"

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GLENDALE, Ariz.--As details of the alleged abuse by Jerice Hunter of her five year old daughter Jhessye Shockley emerged Tuesday, there was an outpouring of emotion in the family's Glendale neighborhood.

On one hand, neighbors and volunteers who'd donated time and in some cases, even money, to the search for Jhessye said they felt angry and betrayed by Hunter.

But some of her family members seemed to stand by Hunter. Her father Jesse Johnson ridiculed the allegations against her and blamed Glendale Police and CPS for wanting to get the case wrapped up.

Hunter's mother Shirley Johnson said she thought the accusations were "very suspect."

The allegations stem from accounts by Hunter's other children who were removed from her custody after Jhessye was reported missing on October 11th.

A 13-year-old sibling of Jhessye said Hunter kept the five-year-old in a bedroom closet. The girl said she would sneak food and water to Jhessye when Jerice was out, so Jhessye would not get dehydrated.

A neighbor at the Autumn Leaves apartment complex on 45th Avenue described the bedroom closets in apartments there as being about two and a half feet deep, and approximately six feet wide.

Neighbor Donald Woodard said the idea of keeping a child in such a closet was "just inhumane."

Several of Jhessye's siblings told investigators Jhessye appeared bruised with black eyes in the closet.

According to court documents, the teenage sibling said "Jhessye's hair had been pulled out and described Jhessye as not looking alive, and that she looked like a 'zombie.'"

"The closet where Jhessye had been locked looked like a grave and smelled like dead people," the paperwork reads.

The teen said Jerice burned incense to cover up the odor and days before reporting Jhessye missing, spent the entire day cleaning the apartment with bleach.

Police confirmed Hunter purchased Clorox bleach at a local Walgreens on October 9th.

"It makes me sick to my stomach," said Barbara Williams, a neighbor who befriended Hunter after Jhessye disappeared and helped extensively in the search.

Williams had this message for Hunter: "You betrayed us, you slapped us in our face and made us feel like fools, out here helping you."

Hunter's father vowed to fight the accusations and said the family was bringing in private attorneys from Los Angeles.