PORT ORCHARD, Wash. -- The parents of 6-year-old Jenise Wright appeared in court Monday to face 17-year-old Gabriel Gaeta, who is accused of murdering and raping their daughter.
The Wrights said it has been difficult because they haven't just lost their youngest child but now have to come to terms with the suspected killer being someone they considered family.
For the first time since her daughter's disappearance, Denise Wright publicly addressed the media Monday.
I miss her and I love her so much, she said. It s why I haven t talked to anybody. It's too hard.
Now she and her husband Jim are sharing their pain and how much they miss Jenise.
I would sit on the couch and wait for her to come down the road and wait for her to slam the door, but I ll never hear that again, said Denise Wright.
It's a situation made harder because they say they know the suspected killer, Gaeta, was someone they had invited him into their home and considered him one of their own.
It s even harder now knowing who did this to her, because he was like family to us, said Denise Wright.
The Wrights said Gaeta often spent time at their home. He would eat with them and even spend the night.
I as a father now have to find a way to bring back their trust on how to negotiate with people again, said Jim Wright, as he discussed how his other children are handling the news. How are they going to be able to trust anybody. If we say it s okay for them to come through the door and we feed them, like we did Gabe.
If the details of this case weren't hard enough, the state removed the Wright's other three children when Jenise disappeared. They're now fighting to get them back, so together they can mourn the loss of Jenise.
We have to heal, said Jim Wright. We have to move forward. The healing process will begin when our family is put back together.
Just hours before seeing Gaeta in court, the Wrights also had a hearing of their own in family court to try and regain custody of their three other children. At this time, they have been allowed visitation. They have another family court hearing Monday, August 18.