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Missing Washington girl was victim of homicide, police say

By Victoria Cavaliere

SEATTLE (Reuters) - The body of a child found near a mobile home park in Washington state was positively identified on Friday as a missing 6-year-old girl, and police said the death has been ruled a homicide.

The Kitsap County Sheriff's Office, assisted by the FBI, said an autopsy concluded that the body found Thursday was that of Jenise Wright, who was to have entered the first grade this year. Authorities did not release details on how she was killed, but said it likely happened on Sunday.

Jenise went to bed on Saturday night in her family home near Bremerton, on the Kitsap Peninsula near Seattle, and was not seen by family members the next day, according to sheriff's deputies.

Her parents reported Jenise missing after she failed to show up for Sunday dinner, telling the sheriff's office they had not been alarmed at first because she often wandered around the mobile home park where the family lived.

A full-scale hunt for Jenise' killer was under way, Kitsap County officials said at a news conference.

"We've come to know she was a happy child. A bright light for those around her," Kitsap County Sheriff's Detective Lieutenant Earl Smith said.

Jenise's parents, who took lie detector tests on Monday, were informed the body found on Thursday was likely their daughter and were receiving grief counseling, police said.

Jenise's killer probably left the crime scene covered in mud, and authorities were asking people to recall if they had seen someone soiled or discarding muddy clothes, sheriff's deputy spokesman Scott Wilson said.

Jenise's home has been searched and investigators were re-interviewing friends and neighbors, Wilson said. Police also were collecting dozens of DNA samples from those who knew the girl.

Jenise had been living with her parents and six siblings. Two of her older siblings were removed from the home after she went missing because authorities found it prudent, Wilson said, declining to elaborate.

Court records in Washington state show Jenise's father, James Wright, was accused of molesting two young family members in 2000 but the charges were reduced to assault.

Neighbors and those participating in the search for Jenise have left flowers, toys and cards outside the mobile home park, which has been blockaded by police all week.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere, Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Leslie Adler)

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