FBI search dogs have found the body of a young girl who Washington officials believe to be Jenise Wright, 6. The discovery of the body in a wooded area near the Steele Creek Mobile Home Park, where her family lived, brings to an end the four-day search for the girl, who disappeared from her home last weekend. The grisly scene was uncovered on Thursday at approximately 11:30 a.m. Frank Montoya Jr., special agent with the FBI, vowed to do a “meticulous forensic examination” of the area.
Speaking on Thursday afternoon, officials in Kitsap County conveyed that they are now focusing on finding whoever is responsible for the little girl’s death, adding that they are “not ruling out anything.” Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Wilson asserted that he is certain the investigation is criminal in nature. Although determining how the girl died will have to wait until the autopsy, scheduled for Friday, is complete, Wilson said that his office believes that “she just did not go off by herself and fall into some bushes and die.” The coroner will also be responsible for making a final identification of the body, but a sheriff’s department statement allows that “it appears that the body is that of Jenise.” No arrests have been made in the case.
Although Jenise was not seen by her parents after going to bed on Saturday night, they did not report her missing until Sunday night, when she did not come home for dinner. They explained that Jenise had wandered around their mobile home park alone in the past, adding that she was friendly and outgoing and was not afraid to talk to anyone. Washington child welfare representatives have removed a boy, 8, and a girl, 12, from the home in which Jenise lived with her parents and six brothers and sisters. Although Jenise’s parents took lie detector tests on Monday, the results have not been released.
The search for the missing little girl was extensive, and included over 300 people in total, including representatives from 15 police agencies and specialized FBI teams. Searchers canvassed all 103 homes as well as various vehicles and outbuildings of the trailer park, located in Bremerton, which is across from Seattle on the west side of Puget Sound. In addition, officials contacted sex offenders living nearby and reviewed surveillance videos taken from surrounding businesses.
The father of Jenise, James Wright, was charged with the molestation of an 8-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl over ten years ago. The molestation charges were eventually dropped, although the reason was not available on Thursday. In 2001, Wright pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault of the 15-year-old in Whatcom County Superior Court. He was sentenced to one year in jail, but the jail term was suspended contingent upon the payment of all fees and adherance to conditions. On Wednesday, Wilson told reporters gathered for a news conference that the previous charges against Wright had “nothing to do with this investigation right now,” and that the focus of officers was on finding Jenise.
By Jennifer Pfalz