Authorities wrap up on-scene probe in death of 6-year-old Jenise Wright
Investigators were wrapping up their on-scene probe Sunday into the killing of 6-year-old Jenise Wright, a day after arresting a 17-year-old neighbor on investigation of rape and murder.
Seattle Times staff reporters
BREMERTON — Investigators were wrapping up their on-scene probe Sunday into the killing of 6-year-old Jenise Wright, a day after arresting a 17-year-old neighbor on investigation of rape and murder.
Kitsap County sheriff’s detectives seized three vehicles from the teenaged suspect’s home and completed final interviews of residents at the Steele Creek Mobile Home Park, the community where Wright went missing eight days earlier.
The statements and evidence collected Sunday will help authorities in “trying to put together a composite of the suspect for painting a picture for the court,” Kitsap County Sheriff’s spokesman Scott Wilson said.
“We’re just wrapping everything up,” Wilson added. “There’s still a lot to do, but now the focus is just dotting all of our i’s and crossing all of our t’s and handing the case off to prosecutors.”
The teenager, who has not been named, was booked Saturday on investigation of second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and child rape, said Det. Lt. Earl Smith of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office. Smith said the suspect was arrested shortly before 3 p.m. after forensic evidence linked the teenager to Wright.
The family was notified about an hour later.
“There’s a lot of grief,” Wilson said. He wasn’t sure if the suspect and Jenise knew each other, but he noted the community in and around the mobile-home park was small.
The suspect was interviewed by authorities Saturday and was scheduled to make an initial appearance in Kitsap County District Court on Monday afternoon.
Justin Pearce, a resident of Steele Creek Mobile Home Park, said he heard the news of an arrest with “sadness, but relief. It doesn’t bring her back, but it’s still relief.”
He said he did not know the boy’s identity, but was sure it would turn out he knew him.
Part of the investigation has focused on the swift collection and testing of forensic evidence, and authorities have said everyone in the 103-unit community has complied voluntarily with the request for DNA samples.
Wilson confirmed the suspect was among those who provided DNA.
The Washington State Patrol was supporting the investigation by staffing its crime lab 24 hours a day until the samples could be processed.
“That team is what enabled us to reach this plateau in this investigation,” Wilson said.
An autopsy concluded Jenise was a homicide victim, and her body was found Thursday in an area near the mobile-home community where she lived with her family.
Authorities have said Jenise was last seen around bedtime last Saturday. She was gone Sunday morning, but her parents were not immediately alarmed because she was allowed to wander around the mobile-home park. They became concerned when she did not show up Sunday night, and they called 911, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Wilson has said the parents, James and Denise Wright, have been cooperative in the investigation.
Throughout the week, authorities had blocked access to the neatly tended neighborhood except to residents.
At the entrance to Jenise’s neighborhood, community members built a growing memorial that includes silver balloons, stuffed animals, lit candles, flowers and letters written to Jenise. Cars continue to stop by, with parents and kids tearfully placing flowers at the scene.
Jenise was well-known among her neighbors and was so friendly that she would have breakfast with one family and lunch with others, authorities have said.
Pearce said Jenise often spent time at his family’s home, including on Saturday, and she played with his 5-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter. Pearce and his wife, Dana, haven’t yet explained to their children what happened to their friend. They plan to get grief counseling before having that conversation.
The Pearces both praised the work of law enforcement.
“It wasn’t even a week,” said Dana Pearce. “I’m so amazed at the job they did.”
Seattle Times reporter Lewis Kamb contributed to this report.Christine Clarridge can be reached at 206-464-8983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.