Bail set at $1M for teen suspect in Jenise Wright's death

by: Alison Grande Updated:


PORT ORCHARD, Wash. - Authorities say a 17-year-old boy arrested in the death and sexual assault of 6-year-old Jenise Wright will be charged as an adult.

Prosecutors in Kitsap County on Monday identified the teen as Gabriel Gaeta. They say in court documents that they have probable cause to charge him with first-degree murder and first-degree rape of a child.

The teen made his first appearance at the Kitsap County Superior Court Monday afternoon.

Gaeta's bail was set at $1 million and he will face formal charges later this week. Attorneys said he will undergo a mental health evaluation.

The photographs KIRO 7 found on the Web of 17-year-old Gabriel Gaeta show him smiling, appearing to enjoy his life. He was consumed; it seems, by the sport of wrestling, and apparently with good reason.

He was a star wrestler, along with a brother, at Olympic High School in Bremerton. Two years ago, he was state champion in his weight class in junior freestyle wrestling.

But there are also indications on line of the trouble that he is now facing. On the website, to the question: "Wanna Fight?" He answered, "No, I don't fight. I just kill people until the point where they're dead."

And then, perhaps more ominously, to the question: ''What's the latest thing that made you smile?'' He wrote back, ''A child crying.''

The crime Gaeta is accused of made many of his neighbors cry. Even those who did not know him nor 6-year-old Jenise Wright, the neighbor girl he allegedly raped and murdered.

During the court appearance Jenise's parents were watching from the front row.

Before he was a suspect in Jenise’s disappearance and murder KIRO 7’s Kevin McCarty ran into Gaeta and his mother at the mobile home park where the little girl lived. Gaeta was behind the wheel of a van with his mother in the passenger seat.

McCarty asked her how she felt about the search then underway.

“It’s very sad it feels like 9/11. It’s very quiet and you don’t hear kids running around anymore. It’s sad,”

she said.

The woman then broke down in tears and refused to give her name. Gaeta sat silently and drove away.

Court records say Jenise died of blunt-force trauma to the head, and there was evidence she was strangled.

Authorities say forensic evidence analyzed by the Washington state crime lab linked the teen to the crime. Earlier in the week, the sheriff's office collected DNA cheek swabs from dozens of nearby residents.

A growing memorial at the entrance to the neighborhood includes silver balloons, stuffed animals, lit candles and flowers.

Jenise’s parents pleaded to have CPS return their three other children. At a court proceeding on Monday, a court commissioner agreed to allow the Wrights to visit with the children ages 8, 12 and 16.

The three children were removed from the home by CPS last Monday after  Jenise was reported missing. The children were placed with an older sister who lives in Whatcom County. 

“It’s hard to be separated. I love them so much. I miss my other daughter I can’t hold anymore,” said Denise Wright, Jenise’s mother, “I just want my kids back. They’re the most important thing I want back right now.”

“I want my kids home. They need to come home now,” said Jenise’s Dad, Jim Wright. He wants them back in the home so the family can heal together.

When asked about the arrest of neighbor Gabe Gaeta, “It’s over. It’s closure now we need to start to heal. Who knows how long that’s going to take?” said Jim Wright.

The Wright’s considered Gaeta a friend, he’d been in their home, even eaten dinner with them. Jim Wright said it is betrayal he didn’t see coming. “A family member infiltrating our family and creating harm. It’s much deeper than the harm done itself from the loss,“ Wright said.

FBI's Specialty Search Dogs Unit discovered Jenise's body on Thursday amid thick brush in a nearby wooded area. Volunteer canine search teams previously reported that their dogs showed interest in a particular area.

Jenise was last seen when she went to bed on the night of Aug. 2. Her parents waited a day before calling for help because they say the girl had wandered around the Steele Creek Mobile Home Park on her own in the past.

Officials have said there were no signs of forced entry at Jenise's home and no indication she was taken from her room.

Hundreds of people, including officers from 15 law enforcement agencies, searched for Jenise and went door to door at the mobile home park on the west side of Puget Sound, across from Seattle. They also pulled surveillance video from nearby businesses and checked in with sex offenders in the county.