Records: 6-year-old died of blunt-force trauma

RACHEL LA CORTE
FILE - This undated file photo provided by the FBI shows Jenise Wright. Authorities say a 17-year-old has been arrested in the death and sexual assault of Wright, a 6-year-old girl whose body was found near the mobile home park she vanished from last weekend. (AP Photo/FBI, File)

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. (AP) — Prosecutors in Kitsap County expect to charge a 17-year-old boy as an adult for the death and sexual assault of a 6-year-old Washington state girl.

Prosecutors said in court documents released Monday that they had probable cause to charge Gabriel Gaeta with first-degree murder and first-degree rape of a child.

The teen was scheduled to make a preliminary appearance Monday afternoon in Kitsap County Superior Court, where prosecutors planned to ask a judge to set bail at $1 million. It was not immediately clear whether Gaeta had a lawyer.

According to court documents, Jenise Wright died of blunt force trauma to the head, and there was evidence she was strangled. It appeared that her body was moved between a half-hour and three hours after she died, according to the probable-cause statement.

Her body was found Thursday almost entirely submerged in a muddy bog in the woods next to the mobile-home park where she lived. Searchers found a small wood pallet over the body, and also located a nylon duffel bag.

Earlier in the week, searchers discovered Jenise's underwear and shorts in a heavily wooded area near the mobile-home park.

Authorities say forensic evidence analyzed by the Washington state crime lab linked the clothing to the teen's DNA. During the investigation, the sheriff's office collected DNA cheek swabs from dozens of nearby residents, including Gaeta.

Detectives interviewed the teen Saturday, during which time he nodded yes when the detective asked whether he was the only one involved, according to court documents. Authorities then served a search warrant on his home and found evidence, including a blood- and mud-covered shirt and a bloody towel in Gaeta's bedroom.

The teen's residence is two homes away from the access to a wooded trail leading to where the body was found, according to the court document.

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

Jenise was last seen when she went to bed the night of Aug. 2. Officials have said there were no signs of forced entry at her 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.