The teen arrested for the alleged sex assault and murder of 6-year-old Jenise Wright is a neighbor for whom the victim’s father had tried to set an example.
“We were friends,” Jenise’s father, James Wright, told NBC News after learning the identify of suspect Gabriel Zebediah Gaeta, 17, a student at Olympic High School in Bremerton, Washington.
“We fed him. He split wood with me at my house. I was trying to teach him to be responsible to his community – even we we leave home, we are responsible as men.”
Two days after his arrest in the mobile home park where Jenise and her family lived, Gaeta was in court Monday, ordered held on $1 million bail pending adult charges of first-degree murder and first-degree rape of a child.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Gaeta was arrested Saturday by Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies and FBI agents, said Detective Earl Smith in a news conference.
According to the Seattle Times, in court papers filed Monday afternoon a detective wrote that Gaeta was linked to the slaying through a match of his DNA to DNA found on bloody clothing recovered near where Jenise’s body was found on Thursday.
She was last reported seen as she went to bed on Aug. 2. Her parents did not initially report her missing because they said the outgoing child previously had wandered on her own through the Steele Creek Mobile Home Park on the west side of Puget Sound, across from Seattle.
“We promised yesterday that we would find justice for Jenise,” the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement announcing the arrest. “Today, we have reached a major milestone toward delivering on that promise.”