Jenise's Dad Looked Out for Teen Held in Her Murder

17-year-old will be tried as an adult for rape and murder

By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 12, 2014 2:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – Not long after the body of 6-year-old Jenise Wright was found in a 4-foot bog near her family's mobile home in Bremerton, Wash., DNA evidence on her clothing led investigators to 17-year-old family friend Gabriel Zebediah Gaeta. Jenise's father, James Wright, tells NBC News he'd mentored Gabriel: teaching him to chop wood, sharing food with him, and instructing him to "be responsible to his community—even when we leave home, we are responsible as men." The teen is being held on one count of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree rape, with bail set at $1 million, reports the Seattle Times. He is expected to be tried as an adult, according to the Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Wright and his wife, meanwhile, were in court yesterday trying to regain custody of their older two children, ages 12 and 8, who were removed by child protective services when Jenise went missing. James Wright was once charged with molesting a young family member, according to ABC News, but that charge was ultimately dropped after he pleaded guilty to an assault charge instead. After searching Gaeta's bedroom, investigators said they found a bloody and muddy shirt, blood-stained underwear and shorts, and a bloody towel. An obviously upset Gaeta "clearly nodded yes" when asked by investigators whether he was the only person involved in Jenise's death, a detective wrote in court documents.

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.
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.   (AP Photo/FBI, File)
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