By Phuong Le Associated Press
SEATTLE — The father of a missing 6-year-old Washington state girl was charged more than a decade ago with molesting two girls, ages 8 and 15, according to court records.
James Wright, whose daughter went missing over the weekend, pleaded guilty in December 2001 to a misdemeanor assault charge related to the older girl. It was not immediately clear why the molestation charges were dropped. Prosecutors in Whatcom County did not immediately return a call Wednesday.
A judge in Whatcom County Superior Court sentenced Wright to a year in jail but suspended the entire jail time provided he followed certain conditions, including paying fees.
A listed number for James Wright could not be found. The Bellingham defense attorney who represented him on the previous charges did not immediately return a call or email.
Authorities searching for the girl are aware of the charge, which happened in a different county, Kitsap County sheriff’s Deputy Scott Wilson said during a news briefing Wednesday.
“That has nothing to do with this investigation,” he said, adding officers are focused on finding Jenise Wright.
Wilson said the parents have cooperated with the search for the girl. They said they last saw her Saturday night at her home in the Steele Creek mobile home park near Bremerton, but didn’t report her missing until Sunday because she had left the home on previous occasions and wandered around the neighborhood. They felt it was relatively safe because the mobile home park is fenced.
The parents took FBI lie-detector tests Monday night, but the results have not been disclosed. Their home was also searched twice by different sets of authorities, Wilson said Wednesday.
Investigators don’t know if the girl wandered off or was the victim of an accident, abduction or homicide.
Officers have been going door to door at the mobile home park. They planned to extend the search to surrounding areas, including the area behind the mobile home park and a nearby field.
According to court records, the girl’s father was charged with first-degree child molestation in February 2000 for molesting an 8-year-old girl following a New Year’s Eve celebration. The girl told a detective and social worker that he inappropriately touched her.
More than a year later, in June 2001, the charges were amended to include third-degree child molestation after a 15-year-old girl who was babysitting the girl during New Year’s Eve 2000 said that Wright touched her breasts and put his hands down her pants, according to court documents.