Attorney for mother of missing Glendale girl says she's innocent

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The attorney for the mother of missing 5-year-old Jhessye Shockley says his client, Jerice Hunter, is innocent, and says the public has only heard one side of the story.

Scottsdale criminal defense attorney Scott Maasen says he was retained by friends and family members of Hunter to defend her.

Hunter was arrested last week, but released from jail Monday after the Maricopa County Attorney's Office declined to file charges.

County Attorney spokesman Jerry Cobb said prosecutors are awaiting more information from the Glendale police department's investigation.

"They have to have evidence," Maasen said. "If they had evidence she has anything to do with a murder, she would be arrested and in jail right now, today."

When asked if Hunter had anything to do with Jhessye's disappearance, Maasen said, "Absolutely not."

Glendale police say they believe Hunter played a part in the girl's disappearance and they said they do not expect to find Jhessye alive.

Hunter's arrest was prompted by statements from her older children who told investigators Hunter kept Jhessye in a closet and beat her. One of the children said Jhessye looked like a "zombie" and that the "closet smelled like death."

Maasen said the childrens' statements are not necessarily reliable.

"Looked like a zombie? This all happened around Halloween when all these images are out right now," Maasen said. "There are a number of cases you can look where kids say things that aren't true, and there are all kinds of reasons for that. I'm not saying that's the case, but we just don't know."

Hunter served four years in a California prison for child abuse.

She has not been seen since being released from jail Monday.