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Suspect arrested in killing of 6-year-old Jenise Wright

Authorities have arrested a 17-year-old boy in the killing of 6-year-old Jenise Wright. (AP image)
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A 17-year-old boy arrested in the death and sexual assault of 6-year-old Jenise Paulette Wright is due in court Monday.

Authorities still haven't released the name of the suspect, who was arrested Saturday in the Bremerton-area mobile home park from which Wright had disappeared a week earlier.

Deputies and FBI agents arrested him at his home without incident.

He was booked for investigation of second-degree murder, manslaughter and rape, and was scheduled to make an initial appearance at 3 p.m. in Kitsap County District Court.

Authorities said forensic evidence analyzed by the Washington state crime lab linked him to the crime. Earlier in the week, the sheriff's office collected DNA cheek swabs from dozens of nearby residents.

Police said they don't know if the suspect knew the girl's family but it's "likely" since the mobile home park is so small."

The little girl was last seen by her parents last Saturday night. Her parents waited a day before calling police because they say the girl had wandered around the Steele Creek Mobile Home Park, with friends and family, and on her own, in the past.

Her body was found Thursday, and the Kitsap County Coroner determined late Friday she was murdered. Officials have not disclosed how she died.

Wright's body was found just outside the Steele Creek Mobile Home Park where she lived with her family, approximately 100 feet beyond a rear row of houses, said Kitsap County Sheriff's Deputy Scott Wilson.

Investigators collected DNA samples voluntarily from residents of the park throughout the week to help rule out potential suspects.

"The purpose is the elimination process," he said. "There's nothing invasive about this whatsoever," Wilson said of the sample collection using mouth swabs.

The head of the Washington State Patrol had dedicated the state crime lab solely to processing the DNA collected in the case throughout the weekend to speed the investigation.

After the search began, state child welfare workers removed two other children, an 8-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl, from the home.

Jenise's father, James Wright, was charged more than a decade ago with molesting two girls, ages 8 and 15, court records show.

He eventually pleaded guilty in Whatcom County Superior Court in December 2001 to a misdemeanor assault charge related to the older girl. It was not immediately clear why the molestation charges were dropped. Prosecutors there did not return calls.

A judge in Whatcom County Superior Court sentenced Wright to a year in jail but suspended the entire jail term on the condition that he follow certain conditions, including paying fees.

Wilson said at a news briefing Wednesday that authorities were aware of the past charge against the father, but that officers were focused on finding the girl.

The Associated Press, MyNorthwest.com's James Bottorff and KIRO Radio's Tim Haeck contributed to this report.

About the Author


Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. He covers everything from May Day riots in Seattle to the latest Boeing news.

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