BREMERTON, Wash. (AP) — A 17-year-old has been arrested in the death and sexual assault of a 6-year-old girl whose body was found near the Washington state mobile home park she vanished from last weekend, authorities said.
The boy was arrested Saturday without incident by deputies and FBI agents at his home in the same Bremerton-area mobile home park, Kitsap County sheriff’s Detective Earl Smith said at a news conference.
The Washington state crime lab made positive confirmation of the suspect through forensic evidence. Earlier in the week, the sheriff’s office had collected DNA cheek swabs from dozens of nearby residents.
Smith said Saturday that the boy was being interviewed and will be booked with second-degree murder, manslaughter and rape in the girl’s death.
The family of Jenise Wright was notified of the arrest about an hour after it took place. A growing memorial at the entrance to the neighborhood includes silver balloons, stuffed animals, lit candles and flowers.
“There’s a lot of grief,” Sheriff’s Office spokesman Scott Wilson told The Seattle Times.
Wilson said he wasn’t sure if the suspect and Jenise knew each other. He pointed out that the community in and around the trailer park was small.
Justin Pearce, a resident of Steele Creek Mobile Home Park, told the Times that he heard the news of an arrest with “sadness, but relief. It doesn’t bring her back, but it’s still relief.”
The FBI’s Specialty Search Dogs Unit discovered Jenise’s body on Thursday amid thick brush in a nearby wooded area. Volunteer canine search teams had previously reported that their dogs had showed interest in a particular area.
Jenise was last seen when she went to bed on the night of Aug. 2. 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.
Officials have said that there were no signs of forced entry at Jenise’s home and no indication she was taken from her room.
Hundreds of people, including officers from 15 law enforcement agencies, searched for Jenise and went door to door at the 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.