By SERAINE PAGE
and KEVAN MOORE
The Bremerton Patriot
EAST BREMERTON — A child’s remains were found the morning of Aug. 7 in a heavily wooded area between Highway 303 and Steele Creek Mobile Home Park.
The Kitsap County Coroner was conducting an autopsy to confirm the child’s identity, and time and cause of death, Kitsap County Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Scott Wilson said at a 12:15 p.m. news conference at Crosswords Neighborhood Church in East Bremerton.
“We’re fairly confident it’s her, but we have to go through the process,” he said, adding that the investigation has shifted from searching for Jenise Paulette Wright, a 6-year-old girl reported missing by her parents on Aug. 3, to finding evidence that might help determine how she died.
The girl’s family was notified Aug. 7, Wilson said.
Members of the search team looking for Jenise found a body in a heavily wooded area north of the mobile home park, where the girl lived with her parents and siblings. Police sealed off the area where the body was found.
Several agencies, including the FBI, were involved in the search. No arrests have been made, Wilson said.
More details were expected to be released at a press conference at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 7.
Hundreds of searchers continued Aug. 7 to comb the area for Jenise Paulette Wright, the 6-year-old East Bremerton girl reported missing four days earlier.
The case is classified as an endangered missing person case, with suspicious circumstances surrounding the disappearance. But on Aug. 6 there still were no suspects or a person of interest in the disappearance, according to local authorities.
“The issue of urgency continues,” Kitsap County Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Scott Wilson said Aug. 5.
“The FBI is dedicating all the appropriate resources needed in this joint effort, including an evidence response team; a regional Child Abduction Rapid Deployment team, which helps in all missing children cases, not just in abductions; the Behavioral Analysis Unit from Quantico, Virginia; additional personnel for canvassing the community for information, polygraph examiners, intelligence analysts, and other specialized personnel.”
As of Aug. 6, searchers had taken to the wooded area surrounding the Steele Creek Mobile Home Park where the girl lived. Jenise was last seen by her parents in her bed around 10 p.m. Aug. 2. Her parents, after scouring the mobile home park for more than an hour the following night, called authorities at 9:55 p.m. They hadn’t seen the girl all day Aug. 3, but told authorities it was not uncommon for her to wander the neighborhood and check in every few hours.
Mary Pelnar, 14, who lives with her mom just around the corner from Jenise’s house, said she thinks of herself as a big sister to the little girl.
“No day is complete without seeing her or hearing her voice,” she said, noting that she has spent nights in the Wright home.
Pelnar said she was especially worried about Jenise because the little girl is so gregarious.
“She’s a really sweet kid,” she said. “She can get on your nerves, but we love her that way. She’s really friendly. That’s what really concerns me. I don’t know if she would know how to tell someone, ‘No, I don’t want to get in a car with you,’ if they offered to take her to get ice cream or something like that.”
Pelnar also talked about how the kids in the community stick together and look out for one another.
“We all love each other like a family,” she said. “We don’t leave anybody behind and [we] travel everywhere in packs. We normally wouldn’t let anyone go home alone, so this is odd. We normally wouldn’t do anything like that.”
She added, “I’d like to see my best friend again and I really hope Jenise is OK. I’m really passionate about people I love and things I believe in. I have a lot of love for people. I’m just hoping and praying that this little girl, or little sister, comes home soon and is safe.”
For a time, the search expanded outward from the park in all directions, and rescue crews used specialized FBI dogs to help canvass the surrounding areas, Wilson said. Sex offenders and transients in the vicinity were interviewed throughout the week by authorities. A Homeland Security helicopter circled the area for a time.
“We consider her a daughter of the park, a daughter of East Bremerton,” Wilson said. “She was such a very outgoing and vivacious little girl who would make friends with anybody in the park.”
Reports from neighbors put the girl’s last known appearance in the park between noon and 4 p.m. Aug. 3. She was possibly wearing jeans, a pink T-shirt and flip flops or no shoes.
The girl’s home has been searched twice by a Washington State Crime Scene Response Team and an FBI evidence team.
The girl’s parents each took separate lie-detector tests, but the results have not be released. Authorities said the parents have been “fully cooperative.” Two of Jenise’s siblings, an eight-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy, were removed from the home on Aug. 4 by Child Protective Services, but authorities would not elaborate about why.
Neighbors were questioned and their homes searched, including vacant ones, Wilson said. By Aug. 5, investigators turned their attention fully on the mobile home park. There were barricades and an increased police presence at the entrance of the park and vehicles were being searched. Residents of the park continued to be interviewed and have officers enter their homes.
“The community support, I’ve never seen this,” Wilson said of the amount of support from community members, including neighbors.
Wilson said the offer from the public to help with ground searches is sincere and appreciated, but it’s unnecessary as trained teams are already on the ground. However, he encourages anyone with a significant amount of property to do a perimeter check.
“Kids do some surprising things sometimes,” he said.
Ayn Dietrich, a public affairs specialist for the Seattle FBI field office, thanked the community for its ongoing support and urged people to come forward with information.
“We’re asking the public to help investigators by providing any bit of information they have about activity in the Steele Creek Mobile Home Park during the weekend of Friday, Aug. 1 to Sunday, Aug. 3,” she said.
“Even if the information is not specifically detailed about Jenise’s whereabouts, one tip about a neighbor or incident might lead to another lead that investigators can explore. And that lead, in turn, might help us uncover information that leads to bringing Jenise home. The FBI emphasizes to the public that no piece of information is too small if it helps illustrate the timeline of events in the mobile home park that weekend.”
— Seraine Page, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Kevan Moore, email email@example.com