Landfill search for Jhessye Shockley's body to begin Feb. 6

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Glendale police have set a date to launch a landfill search for the body of Jhessye Shockley, the 5-year-old who disappeared in early October.

Crews plan to start the operation at the Butterfield Station Landfill in Mobile on Monday, Feb. 6. While the planning and preparation continues, the Glendale Police Department has identified the people who will be involved and the equipment they will use. Final preparations for the massive search include scheduling, train and medical screenings for the personnel who will be doing the heavy lifting.

According to Sgt. Brent Coombs of the Glendale Police Department, there will be more than 40 people on site every day of the search, which could go on for several weeks. Sworn officers, detectives, FBI agents and members of the Child Abduction Response Team (CART) will be involved.

Coombs said analysis and research have led investigators to narrow down the search area to a specific area that's about 180 feet by 200 feet. This area is more than 20 feet deep and contains about 6,000 tons of trash. According to Coombs, that's the equivalent of one days' waste.

The area has been secured and the heavy equipment necessary for the searched will be arriving within the next several days.

The Glendale Police Department announced its decision to search the landfill in early January. The launch date for the search comes nearly a month after that announcement.

Jhessye was last seen at her family's Glendale apartment on Oct. 11, but investigators believe she was killed and her body place in a Tempe trash bin before that. Trash from that area ends up at Butterfield Station.

Officers arrested the little girl's mother, Jerice Hunter, on Nov. 21, but later released her when the County Attorney's Office decided it needed more evidence to move forward with any potential prosecution. So far, she has not been charged in connection with her daughter's disappearance and presumed death.

Hunter, who spent time in prison in California for child abuse, has steadfastly denied any involvement in her daughter's disappearance, but has not agreed to take a polygraph test.

Her lawyer, Scott Maasen, has repeatedly stated that the police do not have any evidence against his client.

Since Hunter's arrest, police have said that she is the focus of their investigation.

While police believe they will find Jhessye's body in the landfill, they have not released any information about what led them there. They also have not said exactly when they believe the little girl was killed.

If investigators are correct in their time line, it's possible that Jhessye has been in the landfill, which is about an house southwest of Phoenix, for more than four months.