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Without a Trace: The Jhessye Shockley Disappearance Revisited

It is a parent's worst nightmare and one of the most dreaded occurrences of them all. It is the disappearance of a child.

Nine months ago, 5-year-old Jhessye Shockley (Pronounced "Jessie") went missing. Although she is only one of tens of thousands of children who disappear every year, the most shocking aspect was that she allegedly disappeared from the safety of her own home--vanished, without a trace.

Jhessye was last seen on October 11, 2011 around 5 p.m. Her mother, Jerice Hunter was reportedly out on errands. When Hunter returned home Jhessye was gone. It was assumed Jhessye left the home through the front door.

After an extensive search of the neighborhood failed to locate her, authorities were contacted and thus began the widespread search for little Jhessye Shockley.

Although police seemed to have no solid leads in the case, it has not been without its twists. In an unusual move, police arrested Jhessye's mother on charges of child abuse related to Jhessye, despite the fact the child was nowhere to be found and there appeared to be no evidence of Hunter abusing her daughter. She had previously been convicted of child abuse in 2005, however, prosecutors decided to drop the child abuse charges against Hunter and allowed her to go free.

It was later revealed that investigators had credible information that little Jhessye had been murdered and her remains were dumped into a trash receptacle which was taken to a landfill.

In December 2011, volunteers and investigators began methodically combing through refuse in a landfill. Despite the landfill apparently being their most solid lead, investigators failed to locate any remains.

Police believe that Jhessye was not abducted as initially thought but the victim of homicide perpetrated by her own mother. Hunter however, has maintained her innocence. She insists that her daughter was abducted. Is she telling the truth? If so, then what happened to Jhessye?

Even though home abductions are very rare, they do occur. Despite Jerice Hunter's questionable background and police accusations, the possibility might still exist that little Jhessye may have actually been abducted. This is borne out by the recent disappearance of 6-year-old Isabel Mercedes Celis, also from Arizona, and an older case that is eerily similar to the Jhessye Shockley disappearance.

Let us now go back a decade in time. It is July 4, 2002. On this day a similar saga was played out. At some time during the early morning hours that day, 4-year-old Dannarriah Finley was reportedly taken from her home in Orange, TX.

According to Jaime Arnold, Dannarriah's mother, she put her little girl to bed around 1:30 a.m. that morning. At around 4 a.m., Arnold told police she got up to check on her children and Dannarriah was there in the room along with two sisters and three cousins.

According to Arnold, when she awoke around 10 a.m., Dannarriah was gone. It is unclear whether Dannarriah woke up, left the home (Arnold said she left her door unlocked at night for her mother.) and was then taken or if someone somehow managed to take her from the home without waking the other children or her mother.

Subsequently, the community along with police quickly mobilized to find the little girl. Day and night people searched for her to no avail until sadly, four days later, Dannarriah was found dead by a pipeline worker some 30 miles away from home on a small island called Pleasure Island near Port Arthur, TX. Little Dannarriah had been sexually assaulted, strangled, and wrapped in a pink floral bed sheet. Dannarriah was killed just short of her fifth birthday which would have been on July 22.

Police did not believe it was a stranger abduction and have continually alluded that they have a suspect, yet 10 years later and despite an FBI finding that there is a strong and prosecutable case, no one has been brought to justice.

Who is this unnamed suspect? Why have authorities not named him but more importantly, where is he now after ten years? Is he still in that area or have police lost track of him? Meanwhile, a child-killer roams free--somewhere among us.

Many readers may have never heard of Jhessye Shockley and almost certainly have never heard of Dannarriah Finley (National media coverage has been sparse on Jhessye Shockley and was virtually nonexistent for Dannarriah Finley) yet both of their disappearances have reverberated through the communities they lived in.

One family still holding out hope for the safe return of their loved one, while another hopes to find closure and justice for an innocent child they laid to rest so many years ago.

To the families of Jhessye Shockley, Dannarriah Finley, and others who have lost children, be assured, they are not forgotten.

If you have any information about these children, contact the Orange Police Department, Orange,Tex., 409-883-1026 (Dannariah Finley) or the Glendale Police Department, Glendale, Ariz., 623-930-3000 (Jhessye Shockley). You can also contact the FBI or your local law enforcement agency.

Additional sources:
Orange Police Dept.
Glendale Police Dept.