It's a case that captivated the valley -- the disappearance of little Jhessye Shockley. Now, sixteen months after she was last seen, there is still no sign of the Glendale girl.
Police believe she is dead and that her mother, Jerice Hunter, killed her. Hunter is now behind bars, and for the first time since being charged with little Jhessye's murder, she went before FOX 10's cameras.
Hunter has pleaded not guilty to first degree murder, but her defense was turned upside down last week when her lawyer dropped her.
That was just one of the issues we discussed from her cell.
Because her case is still ongoing, Hunter would not go into specifics with me about her case -- about whether or not she killed her own daughter and where the girl's body might be. But she did talk about having to find a new attorney, and also about what she calls an unfair portrayal of her in the media.
She says it's so bad she's had to go into protective custody in the Estrella Jail.
"It would be really great if people would get to know me before judging," says Hunter.
It's been nearly 5 months since Jerice Hunter was charged with the heinous crime of killing her 5-year-old daughter Jhessye.
Glendale police believe Hunter dumped the body in a trash bin and that it eventually ended up in a landfill. Despite an exhaustive search, Jhessye's body has never been found.
Hunter maintains her innocence, but the allegations haunt her inside the Estrella women's jail.
"I experience a great deal of harassment from the other inmates here just based on the way I've been played out in the media," she says. "I'm in the cell by myself because I requested it, I requested protective custody just so I would alleviate the gossip and rumors spreading cause I have not had my day in court yet and I have been tried and convicted by the public and media."
She's an accused child killer and a convicted child abuser -- all fueling her image of a monster -- an image she rejects.
"I'm very personable, I'm human, I have emotions like everyone else. I'll give you the shirt off my back, lot of people know that about me."
And now Hunter is dealing with a setback to her defense. Her attorney Scott Maasen withdrew from the case because he has not been paid.
"Prayerful, hopeful. I'm not despairing although it's hard, it's very hard considering what has transpired in court this past week for me. I've been given a public defender. That's nice but I'm still staying prayerful and hopeful."
"What does the future hold for you, you think?" I asked.
"The blessings of almighty God, the answers to all his promises and his children are yes and Amen… I'm no different than anyone else."
Hunter has been assigned a public defender and her trial will continue.
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