SEATTLE (Reuters) - The body of a child found on Thursday near a Washington state mobile home park appears to be that of a 6-year-old girl last seen on Saturday and reported missing when she failed to turn up for dinner the following night, authorities said.
Jenise Wright had gone to bed on Saturday in her family home near Bremerton, on the Kitsap Peninsula across the Puget Sound from Seattle, and was not seen by family members the next day, according to the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.
Her parents notified police after she missed Sunday dinner, telling the sheriff’s office that they had not initially been alarmed because she would often wander alone around the mobile home park where the family lived, checking in every few hours.
After four days of searching led by local law enforcement, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s office said on Thursday they had found a body that “appears to be that of Jenise.”
FBI investigators using sniffer dogs found the body in a wooded area “in close proximity” to the mobile home park, Kitsap County Sheriff Deputy spokesman Scott Wilson told a news conference.
The cause of death and a positive identification will come from the coroner’s office, and results are expected on Friday.
“This is going to be a criminal investigation, no doubt about it,” Wilson said. “We are focusing on trying to narrow in on a suspect.”
Nearly 400 law enforcement officers and dozens of volunteers were helping look for Jenise, whose disappearance did not rise to the level of an Amber Alert because it was unclear whether she had been abducted or wandered away.
The girl had been living with her parents and six siblings. Two of her older siblings have been removed from the home after she went missing because authorities found it “prudent,” Wilson said.
The parents are cooperating with the investigation and have taken lie-detector tests, he said.
Court records in Washington state show Jenise’s father, James Wright, was accused of molesting two young family members in 2000 but the charges were reduced to assault.
Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner in New York; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham