Teen Arrested for Killing 6-Year-Old Missing Girl Was a Family Friend

A 17-year-old boy has been arrested and held on $1 million bail for the suspected murder of his neighbor, 6-year-old Jenise Wright, who went missing from her Washington home on August 2.

Gabriel Z. Gaeta was just one of several members of the mobile home community where the child's family lived who caught the attention of police when the little girl mysteriously disappeared. A wrestler for Olympic High School, who had never been in trouble with the law before, Gaeta will be charged as an adult after his DNA was reportedly found on articles of Jenise's blood-stained clothing.

Gabriel wasn't just Jenise's neighbor -- her father had reportedly taken him under his wing and mentored him.


The suspect, whose face is not being permitted to be photographed unless he is convicted, actually attended Jenise's vigil before he was arrested, according to police. He had visited the Wright's home "many, many times," and Jenise's father, James, says he taught him how to chop firewood to make extra money.

After cops discovered Gabriel's DNA on her clothing, they questioned him at his home. They say he was obviously distraught and that he nodded yes when asked if he was the only one involved in her murder.

More from The Stir: 6-Year-Old Missing Girl Whose Parents Waited a Day to Call Police Was 'Killed'

Jenise's body was found on August 7 in a muddy bog in a wooded area by the family's home. Police say it was covered by a wooden pallet and that the girl's underwear and clothing were found in a different location in the park. At first, some were suspicious because Jenise's parents waited a day to report her missing -- and their 8- and 12-year-old children were taken away by Child Protective Services during the investigation. They are now working to regain custody of their children.

A motive for these horrible crimes is not yet known. Gabriel has been charged with first-degree murder, felony murder, and first-degree rape of a child. 

Are you surprised by the suspect's age and the fact that he was this little girl's neighbor?


Image via Victor/Flickr

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