Lots of tips in search for missing girl, but still no sign of her

BREMERTON, Wash. - Investigating agencies have been flooded with tips, leads and ideas in connection with the hunt for a missing 6-year-old girl, but still no trace of her has been found, officials said Wednesday as the search continued into its third day.

"We've gotten a lot of leads - tips coming in from the public," said Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff's Office. "We have assigned agents who monitor those tips, and they go out ... and monitor what's going on, but nothing I can get into specifically at this time."

In addition, investigators have removed several items from the girl's Bremerton home they hope may shed light on the baffling case. Wilson would not describe the items, but said they will be processed at the Washington State Patrol's crime lab.

More than 15 law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and State Patrol, are now involved in the search for little Jenise Wright, which has centered on the Steele Creek Mobile Home Park where she lives and was last seen.

All 103 homes and every outbuilding and vehicle in the park also are being searched, along with trash cans and recycling bins. Wilson said.

"The cooperation from folks inside Steele Creek has been wonderful," Wilson said. "We haven't needed one search warrant - (investigators) go in, do what they need to do and get out."

Investigators also are talking to registered sex offenders in the neighborhood and are attempting to track down transient sex offenders who may have been in the area when Jenise vanished.

And as the hunt continues, Wilson said investigators are expanding the search perimeters to include areas to the east and west of the mobile home park. They also are looking at surveillance video from businesses in the surrounding area.

The FBI also is bringing in additional assets, including specialized search dogs, he said.

Investigators don't know if the little girl wandered off or was the victim of an accident, abduction or homicide.

"We have to approach it as if it's a worst-case scenario and hope for the best," Wilson said. "We're hoping she's fine - we don't have anything that says she's not still alive."

Meanwhile, court records have surfaced showing that Jenise's father was charged more than a decade ago with molesting two girls, ages 8 and 15.

According to court documents, James Wright was charged with first-degree child molestation in February 2000 for molesting the 8-year-old girl following a New Year's Eve celebration. The girl told a detective and social worker that he inappropriately touched her.

More than a year later, in June 2001, the charges were amended to include third-degree child molestation after a 15-year-old girl who was babysitting the girl during New Year's Eve 2000 said that Wright touched her breasts and put his hands down her pants, according to court documents.

James Wright pleaded guilty in December 2001 to a misdemeanor assault charge related to the older girl. It was not immediately clear why the molestation charges were dropped. Prosecutors in Whatcom County did not immediately return a call Wednesday.

A judge in Whatcom County Superior Court ultimately sentenced Wright to a year in jail but suspended the entire jail time provided he followed certain conditions, including paying fees.

Wilson said authorities are aware of the charge, but added it "has nothing to do with this investigation." He said the girl's father and mother have been very cooperative and they're focused on finding Jenise.

"Her parents have been very, very cooperative with us - maybe not as much publicly as other parents. Some folks are media shy. But they are cooperating with us and we really appreciate that," Wilson said.

Jenise was last seen at her home in the park Saturday night. Her family reported her missing Sunday night.

The family waited a day before calling for help because they say the girl wandered around the neighborhood on her own in the past. They felt it was relatively safe because the mobile home park is fenced, Wilson said.

After the search began Monday, state child welfare workers removed two other children, an 8-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl, from the home. Wilson said that was done as a "precautionary effort."

The parents took FBI lie-detector tests Monday night, but the results have not been disclosed.

Neighbors of the family are worried and upset that a child could vanish without a trace in their neighborhood.

"I don't want to put blame on people, but I think we all know what's going on, and I think a lot of things could have been prevented. It's tragic and I hope that they find her," said one neighbor.

Jenise is 3 feet tall, weighs 45 pounds and has black hair. She'll be a first-grader this school year.

Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI.