Missing Jhessye's mother, Jerice Hunter pleads not guilty - CBS 5 - KPHO


Missing Jhessye's mother, Jerice Hunter pleads not guilty

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Jerice Hunter Jerice Hunter
Jerice Hunter in court on Monday, Sept. 17 Jerice Hunter in court on Monday, Sept. 17
Jhessye Shockley Jhessye Shockley
Jerice Hunter and her attorney during her initial court appearance. Jerice Hunter and her attorney during her initial court appearance.

The mother of missing 5-year-old Jhessye Shockley has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and child abuse charges in court Monday.

Hunter's attorney entered the plea on her behalf Monday morning in Maricopa County and then the judge set her next court date for Nov. 1.

After the plea, Hunter's lawyer, Scott Maasen, told CBS 5 News, "Under the circumstances, considering why we're here, and all the publicity this has had, you know, she's in relatively well spirits, I would say."

Jerice Hunter is being held on $500,000 cash bond.

Maasen said, "There may be people in the community that may come to her aide and in terms of posting the bond and so we'll be hopeful that that may occur."

She was arrested in Mesa a week ago Thursday, nearly a year after she reported her daughter missing.

Last October, Hunter called 911 to report Jhessye missing from her Glendale home.

Hunter faces first-degree murder and child abuse charges for the disappearance and death of her little girl.

Authorities believe Hunter killed Jhessye and got rid of her body by putting it in a trash bin in Tempe. Police believe the little girl's remains ended up in the Butterfield landfill.

Investigators spent months searching the area of the landfill where they thought they would find her body, but they never came across any sign of her.

Hunter has maintained her innocence.

Her father has also been a vocal supporter of hers. He said he believes his granddaughter is still alive and that someone kidnapped her.

"I've had one very limited conversation with the prosecutor assigned to the case. Most cases there are negotiations that are extensive on whether cases go forward or not. It's very rare that cases go forward to trial but some cases do," Maasen said. "So again, at this point if this is a marathon, we're right at the starting line."

Stay with cbs5az.com and CBS 5 News for updates for the courtroom.

Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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