Cliff Jewell said even if the case against Jerice Hunter is circumstantial, he is confident prosecutors have the evidence to get a conviction.
Jerice Hunter is accused of killing her 5-year-old daughter Jhessye Shockley, whose body ha snot been found.
Arrest documents for Jerice Hunter, the mother accused of murdering her missing 5-year-old daughter, shed very little light on the evidence prosecutors might have against her.
The body of Jhessye Shockley has never been found. Hunter has not confessed. There are no witnesses to a murder.
So how does the prosecution make its case?
The Glendale detective who headed up the Shockley investigation declined an interview with CBS 5 News.
So we turned to Cliff Jewell, a retired homicide detective who's worked some of the highest profile cases in Valley history for some insight.
Jewell's not surprised it took almost year to make an arrest in the case, even though early on detectives identified the girl's mother as a suspect. Jhessye was reported missing Oct. 11, 2011.
"I think the Glendale Police Department should be applauded," said Jewell, who has 32 years police experience under his belt and 10 years as a homicide detective.
"When we're dealing with a child abduction case, generally if it involves a family member, they're difficult but not impossible to solve," Jewell said.
He said detectives likely collected hundreds, maybe thousands, of pieces of evidence, many of which would require lab analysis.
"I've worked homicide cases that took up to year just to get a DNA test back," he said.
According to Jewell, detectives and prosecutors had to exhaust every means possible, including a five-month search of a landfill to find Jhessye's body before moving on an arrest.
"She (her body) is a valuable piece of information," he said.
"Her remains would have possibly yielded a cause of death," he said. "It may have yielded other forensic information - child abuse, for example."
The indictment against Hunter alleges the crimes occurred between Sept. 23 and Oct. 4, 2011. Yet, Hunter didn't report Jhessye missing until Oct. 11.
Jewell said that Oct. 4 date could be significant.
"(Investigators) were provided with information that made that date important," Jewell said.
"It's important in that I think that's probably what they were using, possibly as the date that she may have been dumped," he said.
Jewell has worked very closely with county prosecutors for years on some very high-profile cases.
He played a role in the Baseline Killer case in which Mark Goudeau was sentenced to death, and the Serial Shooter case, in which Dale Hausner and Samuel Dietemen received death sentences.
Jewell said even if the case against Hunter is circumstantial, he is confident prosecutors have the evidence to get a conviction. Jewell said it's not unusual for new information, evidence, and even witnesses to surface after an arrest is made.
Copyright 2012 CBS 5(Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
SPECIAL SECTION: Missing Jhessye Shockley SLIDESHOWS: Search for Jhessye INTERVIEW: CBS News' Donna Rossi's exclusive interview with Jhessye's mother Jerice Hunter FLIER: Jhessye was reported missingMore>>
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