BREMERTON, Wash. — A 17-year-old male resident of Steele Creek Mobile Home Park has been arrested in the homicide of 6-year-old Jenise Wright, Lt. Earl Smith of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office said Saturday afternoon.
The suspect will be charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, and first-degree rape of a child. During the 4:30 p.m. news conference, Smith said, the suspect was still being interviewed by detectives from the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.
The suspect’s name was not released. He will be booked into the Kitsap County Juvenile Detention Center, Smith said. The suspect will make his initial appearance in Kitsap County District Court on Monday at 3 p.m. The Kitsap County Prosecutor's Office will make the determination on the formal charges.
Law enforcement made contact with the suspect at 2:50 p.m. at his residence in the park, according to Smith, and deputies from the Sheriff’s Office and FBI took him into custody without incident. Forensic evidence connecting the suspect to the crime was confirmed by the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory earlier Saturday, said Smith, leading to an arrest warrant.
Officials would not discuss the details of what evidence linked the 17-year-old to Wright or her exact cause of death.
Investigators did take DNA swab samples from the park residents who volunteered them.
It is not known whether the girl and the boy knew each other, Wilson said. “He is a member of the park, so you can expect in a small community like that, it was very small, it is a likelihood,” he said.
Bishop Chris Byron of the Brownsville Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the family has planned a memorial for Jenise at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Silverdale LDS stake center, 9256 Nels Nelson Road in East Bremerton. The family has invited friends, family and neighbors to the memorial, and made a special invitation to search and rescue crew members and law enforcement officers who assisted in the case.
Byron has been counseling with the family since Monday. On Saturday evening he said the parents, though still grieving over the death of Jenise, are “relieved and grateful,” for the arrest.
“They expressed concern for the young man’s family,” he said. Law enforcement officials have not released the name of the boy to the Wrights, but Byron said they are pretty sure they know who it is.
The family also asked that the children who were removed from the home on Monday be returned, now that an arrest has been made. They want to heal as a family, Byron said.
Wright’s body was found Thursday about 100 feet from the East Bremerton mobile home park in a muddy, sloped area with thick brush. It was an FBI dog trained to find trace material that found her body.
Nearly 400 people from multiple counties participated in the search for Wright.
She was reported missing at 8:30 p.m. Sunday by family members who said they last saw her when she went to bed Saturday night around 10:30 p.m.
Wright often walked around the mobile home park and was well known in the neighborhood. Her parents said she is often out and about in the neighborhood throughout the day and checks in every few hours.
Smith said the investigation is “far from over” and that the investigation is continuing with interviews, searches and collecting evidence.
Investigators are working to ensure there is not another suspect involved, Wilson said. “We approach our investigations that way. We always make the effort to ensure there is no other person,” he said.
Anyone with information can call 911 or the FBI tip line at 1-800-Call-FBI.