Years' long case of missing girl, 5, leads back to mother, guilty of murder

The still-disbelieving mother was absorbing the jury's verdict after just having been found guilty in the 4-year-long case of her missing 5-year-old daughter. And witnesses said that defendant Jerice Hunter was stoic, even in the face of a murder conviction.

But the suspect's own mother howled that the still-missing little girl, 5-year-old Jhessye Shockley,"is not dead," USA Today reports, writing:

"That baby is not dead," Shirley Johnson, who would be the victim's grandmother, continued outside the courtroom. "I don't mean to yell, but I'm disturbed that they reduced this baby to the grave so they can take her off the national (missing persons) registry so they don't have to look for her no more because she is black. I'm telling you the truth. If she was blonde hair, blue eyes, that baby would be all over, still on the national registry."

Jurors in Phoenix, Arizona, saw it differently on Monday, convicting Hunter of abusing and killing her daughter, Jhessye Shockley, 5, USA Today reports.

The case had been handled as a missing-persons case that began in October 2011, but which eventually lead back to the mother in September 2012, when she was first arrested.

Hunter has been jailed for more than 960 days and maintained her innocence the entire time, the newspaper wrote.

She will be sentenced June 5. At minimum, Hunter faces a term of 35 years to life, USA Today reports.

The girl's body has never been found. Police believe Hunter, who had served time in a California prison for abusing her older children, disposed of her daughter's body in a Tempe trash bin before she reported the 5-year-old missing, USA Today wrote.

Jurors deliberated two-and-a-half days before reaching the verdict.