BREMERTON, Wash — The death of 6-year-old Jenise Wright was formally ruled a homicide Friday by the Kitsap County Coroner’s Office, the sheriff’s office said. But officials refused to publicly reveal the cause of death.
“This is now a homicide investigation,” Kitsap County sheriff’s deputy Scott Wilson said.
He added that DNA swabs were being taken from neighbors who voluntarily offered them.
Jenise’s body found in a wooded area near her mobile home park Thursday.
Authorities asked for the public’s help in finding whoever may be responsible.
Wilson asked people in the mobile home park or people living nearby to think back over the last few days and see if anyone remembered seeing a person with muddy shoes and clothing.
Wilson said they believed whoever may be responsible for the child’s death would have muddy shoes, muddy pants and a muddy shirt. He stopped short of saying the person would have been ‘mud covered.’
“This is going to be a criminal investigation, there’s no doubt about that,” Wilson said at a Thursday afternoon news briefing, before the coroner had issued a report on the autopsy results. “We suspect that she just did not go off by herself and fall into some bushes and die.
The sheriff’s office said in a news release, “The FBI’s Evidence Response Team has finished their processing of the scene where the body was found. The Washington State Patrol’s Criminal Investigation Division is forensically mapping that location.”
Investigators went door to door in the mobile home park asking neighbors for DNA samples.
The sheriff’s office said search teams located the remains of a body around 11:30 a.m. Thursday in “a forested area” in the vicinity of the mobile home park.
Wilson said it was an FBI team with specially trained dogs that found the remains.
“Sheriff’s detectives are asking the public to assist them by providing any bit of information they have about activity in or around Steele Creek Mobile Home Park during the weekend of Friday, Aug. 1 thru Sunday, Aug. 3,” the sheriff’s office said, noting that the FBI tip line remains open. It is 1-800-CALL-FBI.
Jenise was last seen Saturday night at her home.
Jenise’s parents have said they would allow Jenise to walk through the neighborhood on her own and thought she was out playing Sunday morning. When she didn’t return home Sunday night, the parents called police.
The girl’s disappearance struck the tight-knit community, and Wilson said hundreds of tips poured in since Sunday on the missing girl.