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Mother of missing Arizona girl released from custody

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 6:27 AM EST, Tue November 29, 2011
Arizona police continue to investigate the disappearance of Jhessye Shockley, who was reported missing on October 11.
Arizona police continue to investigate the disappearance of Jhessye Shockley, who was reported missing on October 11.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The prosecutor's office is awaiting the results of the probe before filing charges
  • Glendale police say child abuse charges will not be filed "at this time" against Jerice Hunter
  • Jhessye Shockley, 5, was reported missing on October 11
  • Police have called her mother the "lone focus" of the investigation

(CNN) -- The mother of a missing 5-year-old Arizona girl has been let out of jail, police said Monday, a week after her arrest for alleged child abuse.

The Glendale, Arizona, police department said in a statement that it "has been notified the charge of child abuse (against) Jerice Hunter will not be filed, at this time, by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office," prompting the woman's release.

"This decision will allow the Glendale Police Department to follow up on new leads developed since the (November 21) arrest of Jerice Hunter, ... as well as complete forensic analysis of evidence," police said.

Maricopa County Attorney's Office spokesman Jerry Cobb said Monday that his office "is awaiting the results of additional investigation by Glendale police before making a final charging decision."

No other details were offered, by police or the prosecutor's office, as to what spurred the move.

But police did say, "The focus and direction of the investigation into the disappearance of Jhessye Shockley has not changed."

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Last week, Glendale Police Sgt. Brent Coombs described Hunter as the "lone focus" in the investigation. He did not rule out that others might be involved.

Her young daughter allegedly wandered out of the family's Glendale home on October 11, unnoticed by her 13-, 9- and 6-year-old siblings who were supposed to be watching her, according to Hunter's account. The mother contacted police, saying that she did so after she couldn't find her daughter when she returned home from an errand.

The siblings were later interviewed separately by experts and have maintained that they do not know what happened to Jhessye, Coombs has said previously.

Soon after reporting the girl missing, Hunter pleaded for the public's help.

"Please bring my baby back. ... Her safe return is all I want," Hunter said last month. "She belongs to this family. ... She's somebody's child. Mine. Please bring my child home."

None of the leads about the girl's whereabouts have panned out, Coombs told reporters November 21. But he said then that information about her mother proved to "have substance to the investigation (and) have proven to be accurate, as far as we can tell."

Jhessye is described as a black female about 3 feet 5 inches tall, 55 pounds, with black hair in a ponytail and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a white T-shirt, blue jean shorts and pink sandals.

Given the time that has passed, the police sergeant conceded last week, "We do not believe that it will be likely that we will find Jhessye alive."

CNN's Greg Botelho contributed to this report.

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