With the news from unidentified family members, that Jessie was absent school for a week and a half before she was reported missing, came more questions. Family members have said Jerice Hunter had called into the school and said Jessie had ringworm and would not be coming in. While there have been no responses from police, this does have the capability of pushing the timeline, in which Jessie went missing, back. What this does to the case remains to be seen. There are reports that police are working with the FBI to bring Jerice Hunter in for a lie detector test.
In the first weeks of the investigation, police were calling this a kidnapping. The reasoning was that they conducted a 3 mile perimeter area around the home of Jessie Shockley. The police said if she had walked away, they would have found her. The family became inraged that the national media was not covering this case, they blamed this on Jessie being black. No one can argue that the national media were not reporting on Jessie, but they were providing major coverage of the Lisa Irwin investigation in Kansas City, Missouri. Lisa Irwin is a white 11 month old baby, who went missing Oct 4. The national media picked up on Jessie’s case after public cries of racism. Then, the criminal backround of Jerice Hunter surfaced, which caused the family to claim that the focus of the case was on Jerice Hunter’s past and not on finding Jessie. Jerice spoke about how the police were treating her. In an interview with the AP, Jerice Hunter said “They’re treating me like that – the interrogations and the way I’ve been spoken to,””(They’re) very disrespectful.”
Hunters backround includes a 8 year prison sentence of which she served four. She was charged with torture, but was able to enter plea of no contest. Her mother, Shirley Johnson, was the person who turned Hunter in, after observing cuts on the children’s bodies. The oldest child, a 14 year old boy, said that his mother would routinely beat and punch him and beat the girls, aged 3 & 7, with electrical cords. The states probation department argued against probation, saying she was a threat to the well being of her children. Shirley Johnson was given custody of the children and when Hunter was released, Johnson gave her the children.
Jessie was born before Jerice was sentenced. Four cousins raised Jessie and after she was reported missing, two of the cousins spoke out saying they believed that Jessie was being abused. Mahogany Hightower said that she had called CPS, because she believed that Jessie and an older sister, were being abused. She said that CPS told her they interviewed the children and they reported they were not abused. Lisa Vance, another cousin, said she had seen marks on Jessie and that Jessie did not seem like herself.
A neighbor of Jerice Hunter, Kayla Brown, said that she stopped by Hunter’s house ” I expected the door to open and for her to be more friendly to me instead of talking through a window that is closed and covered and everything.” Brown said that Hunter was “She’s angry, she’s angry. I think any mother would be when their baby is taken away from them.”
When speaking of Jessie, Lisa Vance said she was a very intelligent child, who dreamed of being a ballerina. She continued, “you cannot help but love her. I miss everything about her.” Mahogany Hightower recalled the last time she saw Jessie. She said Jessie wanted to go home with them. Hightower told her she could not come then but she could later. She said Jessie responded ” I can’t go later, I’ve got to go now.”