Earlier this week, we learned that authorities believe Jhessye Shockley, a 5-year-old Arizona girl who has been missing since mid-October, is no longer alive. (Note: Her name has also been spelled Jahessye, but I'm going with the local Arizona media spelling, which is likely the accurate one.) Though Jhessye went missing about the same time as “Baby Lisa,” the cases were treated very differently in the media: There was extensive national coverage of Lisa Irwin’s disappearance, while Jhessye’s was largely overlooked. The Irwin family is white, while Jhessye is (or, as the sad case appears to be, was) African-American.
Now the story of the little girl whose disappearance didn’t inspire a national outcry grows even sadder. The Associated Press reports that Jhessye’s 13-year-old sister, who was placed in foster care soon after the 5-year-old’s disappearance, has shared with Child Protective Services some troubling information. The teen “told police that [her mother Jerice Hunter] kept Jhessye in a bedroom closet and deprived her of food and water, and that she had seen the girl with black eyes and bruises and cuts to her face and body,” says the AP, quoting a probable cause statement.
These allegations reminded me of a similar terrible tale from Philadelphia. In 1997, the body a 5-year-old girl, Charnae Wise, was discovered in a basement. As Shankar Vedantam chronicled in an exhaustive report for the Philadelphia Inquirer, The girl’s mother, Charlene Wise, struggled with drug addiction and lost custody of her six children soon after Charnae’s birth. Slowly, she regained custody of the six kids, but she was overwhelmed, telling a social worker she couldn’t care for them all. “You either take them now or we put them up for adoption,” Wise was reportedly told. So she took them....read more