GLENDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5 ) - Ten years ago, on Monday, a little girl's disappearance weighed on the hearts of Arizonans as everyone tried to find her. Five-year-old Jhessye Shockley vanished from her Glendale home, and the only suspect was the person who should have been protecting her.
Half of this case is solved: Jhessye's mom is in prison for her daughter's murder. But that's not enough for her family or detectives. Arizona's Family sat down with them a few months ago and they just want to know where Jhessye is.
This once spunky 5-year-old would be 15 now. It's a bittersweet thought. Her family knows Jhessye was something special. "Jhessye was a superstar. She was destined to be a superstar but she was our superstar," said her aunt, Lisa Vance, with tears in her eyes.
Jhessye Shockley, a 5-year-old girl from Glendale, was reported missing in October 2011. Her remains were never found.
Vance took care of Jhessye for the first four years of her life until her mom, Jerice Hunter, got out of prison for abusing her other kids in California. Things took a turn for the worse 10 years ago, on Oct. 11, 2011.
Hunter reported her daughter Jhessye was missing from their Glendale apartment. Hunter said while she was running errands, Jhessye walked outside, and a stranger put her in their car. "Everyone acts differently when their child is missing and we get that and understand that, but there are some things you listen to as a human being and think, this isn't right," said retired Glendale Police Detective Roger Geisler.
Detectives felt Hunter's public demeanor was off. "God bless y'all! I love y'all, find Jhessye. Bye babies," Jerice yelled to people outside her apartment. She also lashed out at the media in front of the Arizona Capitol when questions were asked. "Do I look like I hurt my daughter? Do I look like I hurt my daughter?" Hunter yelled.
Then, Jhessye's older sister started opening up about what she saw - horrible abuse of Jhessye by their mom inside a closet, which she would eventually testify about in court.
Cameras were allowed to record the audio. "She had black stuff coming out of her eyes, like glue. And she wanted me to take her to the bathroom, but she couldn't really walk that much so I took her to the bathroom," her sister said on the stand.
"Did she have any bruises on her body?" asked the prosecutor. "Yes," her sister replied. "Where were they?" asked the prosecutor. "Everywhere," her sister said. Police found Jhessye's blood in the closet. Hunter was arrested, but only on child abuse charges.
The breaking point in the case came soon after when a neighbor in the apartment complex came forward about a trip to Tempe she had taken Hunter on weeks prior. "She described a lot of taking Jerice on a road trip to dispose or to sell some shoes in a suitcase and how they drove to an apartment complex and disposed of this suitcase that may or may not have had an odor to it," said Geisler.
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Authorities launched the longest landfill search in the history of Arizona for a body. Five months of combing through debris - no Jhessye. But that didn't stop investigators. Hunter was still arrested on first-degree murder and convicted.
"Do you two believe Jhessye is in that landfill?" asked reporter Briana Whitney. "Yes, absolutely. Without a doubt," said Geisler and Glendale Police Detective Dave Madeya. "Does that mean you both believe she was in that suitcase?" asked Whitney. "Yes," they both responded.
"I just believe in my mind and my heart and my soul that's her final resting place. We got balloons and we said our goodbyes at that landfill," said Vance.
Because this is still an open investigation, please call the Glendale Police Department with any tips or information you have about Jhessye's disappearance or anything suspicious you saw that could be involved in the case. To hear more about the case, listen to the podcast about the case, by click/taping here.