Police in Arizona say they now believe the body of missing 5-year-old Jhessye Shockley was discarded in a Tempe dumpster and may be in a local landfill.
"We believe Jhessye Shockley's body was placed in a trash receptacle located in the city of Tempe prior to the report of Jhessye's disappearance," said Glendale Police Officer Tracey Breeden. "Our investigators know that trash from this location is removed to a transfer station and ultimately taken to the Butterfield Landfill located south of the valley."
Breeden said authorities have suspected for the past few weeks that Jhessye could be at the landfill and have been trying to determine the viability of a landfill search.
"That includes conducting analysis to determine the likelihood of success of recovering Jhessye's body. The decision whether to search will be finalized in the coming weeks," Breeden said.
Jhessye was reported missing on Oct. 11. The girl's mother, Jerice Hunter, 38, told authorities she left the little girl in the care of her other children while she ran some errands. She said the girl wandered away from her siblings and was missing when she arrived home.
Jahessye Shockley Case Photos: (Story Continues Below)
Jhessye Shockley, 5, is seen in this undated handout photo provided by the Glendale Police Department. Shockley went missing on Oct. 11, 2011. On Dec. 21, police said the case is a homicide and added that they believe the girl's body was dumped in a Tempe trash receptacle days before her disappearance was reported. (AP Photo/Glendale Police Department, File)
Residents sit in the courtyard at the apartment complex where 5-year-old Jahessye Shockley lived Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011 in Glendale, Ariz. Police say that Jerice Hunter, Shockley's mother, is the primary focus of their investigation. She was detained by police in November, but released without facing charges. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Tamaya Warren hands out flyers seeking information about 5-year-old Jahessye Shockley Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011 in Glendale, Ariz. Police fanned out once again in the area where she disappeared in hopes of turning up new leads to follow. Police now say Shockley's mother, Jerice Hunter, is the main suspect. (AP Photo/Matt York)
A Glendale, Ariz. police officer and a resident handout flyers and seek information in the neighborhood where 5-year-old Jahessye Shockley lives Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011 in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Shirley Johnson, the grandmother of a 5-year-old Arizona girl missing for more than a week, speaks to members of the media about her disappearance in Phoenix, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011. Johnson said she hopes to draw more attention to the disappearance of Jahessye Shockley in hopes of finding the girl alive. (AP Photo/Amanda Lee Myers)
Last month, detectives arrested Hunter on suspicion of child abuse. The arrest regarded allegations that she had locked Jhessye in a closet and deprived her of food and water before her disappearance. Hunter was released from custody 48 hours later, after the Maricopa County Attorney's Office failed to press charges against her.
Investigators have made it clear they do not believe Jhessye is alive. They have described Hunter as the primary focus of their investigation.
Hunter's attorney, Scott Maasen, has told Tucsoncitizen.com that his client is innocent and police should focus their attention on finding Jhessye.
Breeden said today that Hunter has not submitted to a polygraph test.
"Our investigators encourage her assistance and cooperation in this investigation and would certainly make a polygraph examination available through her attorney," Breeden said.
The police officer added, "Our investigators [are working] diligently to locate Jhessye and solve this homicide investigation."