Grandmother of missing girl happy landfill search is under way

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MOBILE, AZ--The grandmother of missing 5-year-old Jhessye Shockley says she is happy police have finally begun their search of an area of the Butterfield landfill, and is hopeful the search will bring answers and closure.

"I'm happy they started looking," Shirley Johnson said from her home in California. "I'm just sitting with a bated breath, trying to see if anything is going to come out of it."

On Monday morning, a team of 40 Glendale police officers and detectives began searching an area of the Butterfield Station Landfill in Mobile, which is about an hour southwest of Phoenix.

Glendale Police Sgt. Brent Coombs said detectives believe Jhessye was dumped in a Tempe trash receptacle days before she was reported missing from her Glendale apartment complex by her mother on Oct.11.

Investigators have been able to narrow down the area of the landfill that corresponds with trash picked up at the time and place they believe Jhessye's body was dumped.

Crews will sift through 6,000 tons of trash, working "from the front to the back of that search deck going through every bit of trash with different tools, ripping every single bag open, going through everything," Coombs said.

Police say Jhessye's mother, Jerice Hunter, is their primary focus in the murder investigation and are hopeful the landfill search will provide the evidence they need for an airtight case.

When asked about her daughter's involvement in the case, Johnson said:  "I hope no one can hurt their children. I hope I haven't raised anyone that could hurt their child, and it's up to law enforcement to find that out."

Hunter's attorney, Scott Maasen, reiterated that Hunter is innocent and criticized Glendale police for taking so long to begin the landfill search.

"If you really would have thought the information was reliable and accurate, you would have looked a long time ago for a missing girl," Maasen said. "All experts will tell you the longer you wait in a landfill search the harder it is to find anything."

The search is expected to go on for several weeks.