Parents of slain girl continue fight to regain custody of other kids

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. -- - The parents of 6-year-old murder victim Jenise Wright have asked for a full trial in their battle to regain custody of their other children.

James and Denise Wright appeared at a hearing this afternoon in Kitsap County Family Court with their lawyers, including an attorney from the Nooksack Tribe.

Denise is a member of the tribe, and has asked Nooksack officials to help represent her family.

State officials took the couple's 12-year-old daughter and two sons, ages 8 and 16, into protective custody a day after police started searching for Jenise.

Officials will not say why. Jenise's father says he cannot talk about the reasons yet.

The girl was last seen in her East Bremerton neighborhood on Aug. 2. Police found her body five days later not far from home. Officers arrested a neighbor, 17-year-old Gabriel Gaeta, on suspicion of murder and rape.

The three other Wright children are in the custody of their grandparents, and both James and Denise are allowed to visit.

Outside the courthouse, we asked James how the kids are doing.

"Best as can be expected and thank God they're with family," he said. "If they were in a strange home I would be even more concerned than I am now."

He said the entire family needs to be together to fully grieve Jenise's death.

James and his wife asked the Nooksack Tribe to intervene on their behalf in the custody dispute.

"Our culture is extremely important to us, as anybody who would have religious preferences," James said. "That's the foundation of our country. We can't sidestep that. Culture is culture."

The family court commissioner set a trial date for October 14 and 15 to determine whether the three children can return to their parents' home.