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Case file: 6-year-old girl was strangled, beaten, sexually assaulted

Case file: 6-year-old girl was strangled, beaten, sexually assaulted
PORT ORCHARD, Wash. - Authorities say a 6-year-old Bremerton girl died from a combination of skull injuries and strangulation, and the 17-year-old boy suspected of killing and sexually assaulting her will be charged as an adult.

The teen, identified as Gabriel Gaeta, is a wrestler and athlete at Olympic High School. He is due in Kitsap County Superior Court on Monday afternoon, sheriff's office spokesman Scott Wilson said.

Prosecutors in Kitsap County filed court documents Monday saying they had sufficient evidence to hold Gabriel Gaeta on first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances, felony murder and first-degree rape of a child.

Judge Kevin Hull set bail at $1 million. Hull also granted prosecutors' request for a mental-health evaluation for Gaeta.

Prosecutors said they want that competency evaluation before filing charges against the teen. They are pursuing the case in Kitsap County Superior Court, where Gaeta is expected to be tried as an adult.

The teen arrived in court with a black jacket over his head. He spoke softly as he answered the judge's question. His next court date was set for Aug. 28.

Investigators say Gaeta was arrested Saturday in the Bremerton-area mobile home park where little Jenise Wright lived. She disappeared from the park a week earlier and was found dead in a nearby wooded area on Thursday after being pinpointed by search dogs.

Court documents released Monday said Jenise was found with multiple skull fractures. She also had been strangled and sexually assaulted. Her bloody underwear was found a short distance away from her body.

It appeared that her body had been moved a half-hour to three hours after she was killed, according to court papers.

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 search of Gaeta's bedroom also found blood-stained underwear, a shirt covered with mud and blood, blood-stained shorts and a bloody towel, court documents say.

In an interview, Gaeta told investigators that he was the only one involved in the death of Jenise Wright.

Investigators said the teen had attended a vigil for the little girl on Friday night.

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

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.
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