BREMERTON — An autopsy confirmed what investigators already suspected — that 6-year-old Jenise Wright, who had been missing since Saturday, was a victim of homicide, police said Friday.
Investigators refused to say how the girl died or when, but said that whoever killed her was likely “covered in mud” at some point over the weekend.
Jenise’s body was found Thursday in a sloped area covered with trees and heavy brush about 100 feet beyond the perimeter of the community of manufactured homes where the girl lived with her family.
“If you know someone who was covered in mud, or had muddy shoes or clothes that they were washing or getting rid of — maybe a favorite item — then we want to talk to you,” said Scott Wilson, a spokesman for the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.
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He asked anyone with information about the case, no matter how seemingly small, to call the tip line, 1-800-CALL-FBI.
No suspects have been identified, Wilson said, but investigators will be working through the weekend to collect DNA samples from residents of the Steele Creek Mobile Home Park and the surrounding neighborhood. So far, every person in the 103-unit community has complied voluntarily with the request, he said.
He described it as an effort to “eliminate potential suspects.”
Wilson also said the Washington State Patrol will support the investigation by staffing its crime lab 24 hours a day until the samples have been processed. He said investigators could have results within one day.
Jenise was last seen around 10 p.m. last Saturday when she went to bed. Her parents noticed she was gone Sunday morning but were not alarmed because they allowed Jenise to wander freely around the mobile-home park, Wilson said. They told police she usually checked in every couple of hours.
Her parents began to worry, however, when she did not turn up by 8:30 p.m. on Sunday. They searched and went door to door looking for her for about an hour and a half before calling 911, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Wilson said the girl’s parents, James and Denise Wright, have been cooperative in the investigation. Though he would not discuss the results, he said both willingly took polygraph tests Monday.
Investigators are aware that Jenise’s father has a criminal history, he said earlier this week, but they do not believe it has any connection with the girl’s disappearance.
Wright was charged in 2001 with two counts of child molestation for allegedly touching an 8-year-old girl and her 15-year-old baby-sitter inappropriately after a New Year’s Eve celebration.
Wright pleaded guilty later that year to a misdemeanor assault charge related to the older girl and was given a one-year suspended sentence.
Two of Jenise’s older siblings, an 8-year-old and a 12-year-old, were removed from the house by Child Protective Services on Monday.
The incident commander, detective Lt. Earl Smith of the Sheriff’s Office, said at a news briefing Friday afternoon that investigators were committed to working night and day until the person responsible for Jenise’s death is found.
“Our promise to those who love Jenise and to those who have just come to know her in the past few days is that we will complete that work,” Smith said. “Jenise is gone, but we can — and will — find justice for her.”
Christine Clarridge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8983.