Shockley family files claim, fights for sisters' custody - WNEM TV 5

Shockley family files claim, fights for sisters' custody

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Lisa Vance, Jhessye Shockley's cousin, said the $10 million is not all about the money. She said it's also about justice for Jhessye. (Source: CBS 5 News) Lisa Vance, Jhessye Shockley's cousin, said the $10 million is not all about the money. She said it's also about justice for Jhessye. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Attorney Dwane Cates said that despite the family's fear of abuse, Glendale police were non-responsive. (Source: CBS 5 News) Attorney Dwane Cates said that despite the family's fear of abuse, Glendale police were non-responsive. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Jhessye's mother, Jerice Hunter, is in jail charged with first-degree murder even though her daughter's body has never been found.  (Source: CBS 5 News) Jhessye's mother, Jerice Hunter, is in jail charged with first-degree murder even though her daughter's body has never been found. (Source: CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -

There were two big developments in the case of missing Jhessye Shockley, a story that captivated news audiences last year.

Family members who raised Jhessye have filed a $10 million wrongful death claim, claiming not enough was done to prevent the 5-year-old from suffering abuse at the hands of her mother.

And the little girl's grandmother is in court fighting for custody of Jhessye's sisters.

The notice of claim is the first step in filing a lawsuit. The claim, if it goes to court, would be for the $10 million, but family members said they are willing to settle for $3 million. The claim, they said, is not at all about the money.

"We are still trying to get justice for Jhessye," said Lisa Vance, Jhessye's cousin.

Justice is the motivation behind the notice of claim, which accuses the Glendale Police Department and Child Protective Services of gross negligence. Family members said they repeatedly reported to those agencies their suspicions of abuse suffered by Jhessye and her sisters at the hands of their mother, Jerice Hunter. 

"They had a chance to save her life and they chose to sweep it under the rug," Vance said. "However it happened, they didn't save her and she should have been saved."

Hunter reported 5-year-old Jhessye missing in October 2011. Hunter now sits in jail charged with first-degree murder even though her daughter's body has never been found.  

"I know for a fact that me and my immediate family, we did everything possible," Vance said. "We did everything by the book to try to not only get Jhessye out of the home, but we were trying to get all of the children out of the home."

Their attorney, Dwane Cates, said that despite the family's fear of abuse, Glendale police were non-responsive.

"They called the Glendale Police Department, said there was abuse going on," Cates said. "The Glendale Police Department did no investigation. They didn't even go talk with Jerice Hunter. They didn't do anything."

Police turned the case over to Child Protective Services, which despite signs of possible abuse, took little action.

"If they did do their job, we wouldn't be here today," Vance said. "Jhessye would be here."

The claim also points out that CPS and Glendale police should have paid closer attention to the possible abuse claims since Hunter had a history of child abuse and did time in a California prison for abuse.

Neither the Glendale Police Department nor CPS would comment about the pending litigation.

In another development, Shirley Johnson, Jhessye's grandmother who cared for and actually had legal custody of Jhessye's three older sisters while Hunter was in prison, was in juvenile court for a severance hearing Wednesday afternoon.

Johnson would not talk with CSB 5 News when the hearing was over for the day but we learned the state of Arizona is trying to strip Johnson of her legal guardianship of the three girls, who have been in foster care since Jhessye went missing.

Johnson is fighting the state's efforts, hoping to get the children out of foster care, maintain her guardianship and take the girls to California where Johnson lives.

Johnson's hearing continues Thursday.

Stay with cbs5az.com and CBS 5 News as this story develops.

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