Suspect in Jenise Wright death appears in court

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by Associated Press and KING 5 News

KREM.com

Posted on August 11, 2014 at 3:33 PM

Updated Monday, Aug 11 at 7:50 PM

BREMERTON, Wash. - Bail was set at $1 million for 17-year-old for Gabriel Zebediah Gaeta, who will be charged as an adult in the death of 6-year-old Jenise Wright.

Gaeta appeared in a Kitsap County courtroom on Monday.

Gaeta is facing murder and rape charges with "aggravating" circumstances - trying to conceal a crime, sexual motivation and vulnerable victim.

Gaeta was booked Saturday. Court documents say Gaeta "clearly nodded yes" when asked if he was the only one involved.

The documents say Jenise Wright's body was found covered by a wood pallet and almost fully submerged in a muddy "bog."

Court records say the 6-year-old died of blunt-force trauma to the head, and there was evidence she was strangled.

The young man arrested in the girl's death will be charged as an adult.

Gaeta could face life in prison if convicted.

Gaeta was arrested Saturday in the Bremerton-area mobile home park from which Wright had disappeared a week earlier.

Investigators confirmed that Gaeta attended a community vigil for Wright on Friday.

Authorities said forensic evidence analyzed by the Washington state crime lab linked him to the crime. Earlier in the week, the sheriff's office collected DNA cheek swabs from dozens of nearby residents.

Related: Detectives scour home of teen murder suspect

Kitsap County sheriff's detectives seized three vehicles from the suspect's home and completed final interviews of residents at the Steele Creek Mobile Home Park, the community where Wright went missing eight days earlier.

The statements and evidence collected Sunday will help authorities in "trying to put together a composite of the suspect for painting a picture for the court," Kitsap County Sheriff's spokesman Scott Wilson told the Times.

A growing memorial at the entrance to the neighborhood includes silver balloons, stuffed animals, lit candles and flowers.

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.

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