Washington state teenager Gabriel Gaeta was charged as an adult with aggravated murder and aggravated rape on Friday after he sexually assaulted and murdered his 6-year-old neighbor.
A search began for Jenise Wright after she disappeared from her bed on August 2 from her family’s home in a mobile home park. According to police, there was no sign of forced entry into the home and no indication that Wright had been taken.
Wright’s body was found on August 7 after law enforcement carried out an intensive search involving hundreds of officers and other officials. An FBI team with search dogs eventually found the 6-year-old girl’s body covered by a wood pallet and submerged in a muddy bog in the woods near her home.
Police linked evidence found near Wright’s body with Gaeta’s DNA, along with a blood- and mud-covered shirt and towel in Gaeta’s bedroom, then arrested Gaeta two days later.
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Court records showed that Wright suffered blunt-force trauma to the head, then was strangled and sexually assaulted.
James Wright, Jenise’s father, reported that Gaeta was a close friend of the family and that he lived nearby. According to authorities, Gaeta, 17, had no criminal history.
If convicted of murder, Gaeta could face life in prison without the possibility of parole. He will not face the death sentence since he is under 18.
According to prosecutor Russ Hauge, the results of an evaluation of Gaeta’s competency to stand trial have not yet been delivered.
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Photo Source: AP, Kitsap County Sheriff's Office