Suspect in Jenise Wright death appears in court

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. He was booked for investigation of second-degree murder, manslaughter and rape.

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. Jenise Wright's parents and Gaeta's parents were in the courtroom, sitting about 10 feet from each other.

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 Thursday, covered by a wood pallet and almost fully submerged in a muddy bog. It appeared that her body was moved between a half-hour and three hours after she died, according to the probable-cause statement.

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

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 Gaeta'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.

Gaeta, who turns 18 in December, will be charged as an adult based on the severity of the charges. He could face life in prison if convicted. Since he is 17, he cannot face the death penalty.

Kitsap County Prosecutor Russell Hauge said Gaeta has a prescription for antidepressant medication, so the state wants to give him a competency exam before he is formally charged.

The competency evaluation is really whether we can charge him with anything, said Hauge. Right now we're confident we can. We just want to nail that down.

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

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.

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. They also pulled surveillance video from nearby businesses and checked in with sex offenders in the county.


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