Sheriff: Suspect in Disappearance Likely Got Muddy

Friday, August 08, 2014
The person who might be responsible for the disappearance of a 6-year-old Washington girl would have been "covered in mud," and authorities on Friday asked for the public's help in recalling whether they had seen anyone who fit that description over the weekend.

The wooded area where an FBI team found a body believed to be that of Jenise Wright was covered with thick brush and likely was muddy, and a possible suspect may have muddy clothing, Scott Wilson, a spokesman with the Kitsap County sheriff's office, said Friday.

Meanwhile, Wilson said authorities are collecting DNA cheek swabs from residents who volunteer them in the Bremerton-area mobile home park where Jenise lived. He said the samples would be used to eliminate suspects.

Jenise disappeared over the weekend and was likely found dead Thursday in woods near the trailer park.

Formal identification of the body was expected Friday, but Wilson says authorities believe it is Jenise. Her family has been notified.

Autopsy results revealing the manner and cause of death could be available later Friday.

Authorities are focusing on a criminal investigation of the death. They're trying to track down anyone responsible, and they're not ruling anything out. There have been no arrests in the case, authorities said.

The FBI's Specialty Search Dogs Unit discovered the body after volunteer canine search teams reported their dogs showed interest in a particular area.

Determination of the manner and cause of death is pending, Wilson said, but "we suspect that she just did not go off by herself and fall into some bushes and die."

Jenise was last seen when she went to bed Saturday night. Her parents waited a day before calling for help because they say the girl had wandered around the Steele Creek Mobile Home Park on her own in the past. She was outgoing and unafraid to talk to anyone, family said.

Wilson said Thursday that there were no signs of forced entry at the girl's home and no indication that she was taken from her room.

An FBI evidence research team has finished checking the area where the body was found, and a forensic mapping team from the Washington State Patrol's criminal investigation division planned to map the spot, Wilson said Thursday evening.

The girl's parents are cooperating with authorities, he said.

Hundreds of people, including officers from 15 law enforcement agencies, searched for Jenise, going door to door at Steele Creek Mobile Home Park on the west side of Puget Sound, across from Seattle.

They also pulled surveillance video from nearby businesses and checked in with sex offenders in the county.

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 Wright'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 has said that authorities were aware of the past charge against the father, but that officers were focused on finding the girl.

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