BREMERTON, WA - Both parents of a missing 6-year-old Washington girl agreed to take lie detector tests Monday as law enforcement crews continued to scour the mobile home park where she disappeared.
Jenise Wright was the focus of a search that included about 80 crews from several counties during the day and an elevated FBI presence as the day wore on.
Jenise was reported missing Sunday night. She is described as 3 feet tall, weighing about 45 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. She is of mixed race, white and Native American/Filipino. She was last seen at about 10 p.m. Saturday when she went to bed in her home in the Steele Creek mobile home community.
According to the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, Jenise’s parents said she is often out and about in the neighborhood throughout the day and checks in every few hours.
Most days, Jenise would start making the rounds of the community at about 9:30 or 10 a.m., knocking on doors looking for someone to come outside with her, said Annysa Jones, 16, a resident of the Steele Creek complex.
Everyone in the neighborhood, it seems, knows Jenise, and they all describe her as outgoing and unafraid to talk to anyone, so much so that it worried some of them.
Mary Pelnar, 14, said much the same: Jenise has no fear of strangers. Pelnar said Sunday was unusual because of Jenise’s absence. “The day is not complete without hearing from her or hearing a story about her,” Pelnar said.
When Jenise’s parents hadn’t heard from her by 8:30 p.m. Sunday, they began going door to door in the neighborhood, according to a Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office statement. When that proved fruitless, they called 911 at 9:55 p.m.
By late Monday, the parents had both consented to taking lie detector tests and to letting a Washington State Patrol investigative team search the house without a warrant.
The neighborhood is known to have a lot of kids, and those kids playing outside is the normal soundtrack for summer days. Most days, Jenise would be at the center of it all.
On Monday, that noise was replaced for a couple of hours by the deafening rhythm of a helicopter, provided by the federal Department of Homeland Security, beating a path back and forth over the wooded area that separates the neighborhood from Waaga Way. Deputy Scott Wilson, Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said the helicopter took video of the area, including the woods. Detectives will be able to review the recording as they continue to investigate.
Wilson said this officially is considered a missing person case with suspicious circumstances. The term “suspicious circumstances” has less to do with anything law enforcement officials found and more to do with the fact that Jenise has remained missing. When a child is gone for two days, Wilson said, it often means the child was abducted or there was an accident.
Jones said she and her friends would talk to Jenise about being more careful about who she approached.
Otherwise the neighborhood didn’t seem to give anyone anything to worry about. “It’s just this is the kind of thing that doesn’t happen here,” said Taylor Harbin, 18, who grew up in the Steele Creek neighborhood.
Harbin said Jenise seemed unfazed by the suspicion others might have shown. “She’s really talkative,” she said. “If you were nice to her, she became your best friend.”
Dixie Bennett lived in the neighborhood until 2003 and discussed how it’s no place for people just passing through. “People didn’t come down here unless they had a reason,” she said. When strangers do come through, residents notice. On Monday, her draw to the community returned. She spent the bulk of her lunch hour driving around the area surrounding the Steele Creek to see if she could spot Jenise.
Two other children in the Wright home were removed by Child Protective Services. Wilson said he would not say why.
At around 2:30 p.m., Jenise’s father, James Wright, left the home accompanied by an officer from the Bremerton Police Department and another from the FBI. James Wright told Todd Best, an acquaintance of the Wright family, that he was going with the officers to take a lie detector test.
At around 3:15 p.m., sheriff’s deputies began checking identifications of anyone entering the neighborhood. The checkpoints were intended both to check the IDs and to make sure residents knew why law enforcement was there. By about 5:45 p.m., deputies began checking the inside of every vehicle.
Sometime after 8 p.m. Monday, Jenise’s mother, Denise Wright, left with officers to take a lie detector test.