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How Jerice Hunter is charged with murder without a body

Prosecutors are trying to convince the jury that five-year-old Jhessye Shockley is dead, even without a body.
Interim Glendale Police Chief Deborah Black speaks at a press conference about the arrest of the mother, Jerice Hunter, of missing 5-year-old Jhessye Shockley inside Glendale police headquarters in Glendale, AZ, on Sept. 6, 2012.

ID=70585510The second week of Jerice Hunter's murder trial begins Monday and prosecutors are trying to convince the jury that 5-year-old Jhessye Shockley is dead, even without a body.

Hunter is accused of killing Shockley through neglect, packing her body in a suitcase and throwing it in a dumpster in Tempe.

Police and volunteers sorted through a landfill for three months looking for Shockley's body, but found nothing.

Without a body to point to as evidence, prosecutors must focus on what evidence they do have: Hunter's history of child abuse, blood evidence, witness statements and the testimony of her own children.

"You have to be able to convince the jury that there are no other options," former Phoenix police officer Paul Penzone said. Penzone believes a murder case without a body is not impossible, just very difficult.

In testimony on Thursday, prosecutors called, among others, Jhessye's former teacher. Deborah Hein told the jury that Jhessye was a bright and bubbly girl. Hein's voice broke when she was shown a photograph of the girl.

READ:Police, DCS should remember Jhessye Shockley

Prosecutors also called the Glendale police officer, Sgt. Mark Lankford, who led the case. He said he returned to Hunter's house weeks after Shockley went missing. Hunter had apparently called 911 again, this time over money.

Lankford said Hunter was upset that people had been raising money for Jhessye, but she had not been receiving it. When Lankford asked Hunter about the call, he said she slammed the door in his face.

But Hunter's attorneys have to remind the jury of the evidence they're not seeing. Attorney Kaine Fisher from the Rose Law Group said defense attorneys don't have to prove Jhessye isn't dead, just that it's possible she's alive.

"You need one juror with reasonable doubt," Fisher said. "Number one, whether the child's dead. And number two, that the mother actually killed the child."

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