Cops: Suspect in Ark. girl’s death a family friend
BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — The neighbor charged in the killing of a 6-year-old Arkansas girl was a family friend, police said Tuesday.
Bentonville Police Chief Jon Simpson described Zachary Holly, 28, as “an acquaintance” and a family friend who is from the area. Holly is being held in the Benton County Jail on charges of capital murder, kidnapping and residential burglary.
Jersey Bridgeman, whose high-profile child abuse case last year sent her father and stepmother to prison, was reported missing the morning of Nov. 20. Minutes after a search for her began, Jersey’s body was discovered in an abandoned house two doors from her home in Bentonville.
Holly and his wife live next door to where Jersey was staying, police said. Court records show the couple was married in March. Holly worked at a fast-food restaurant, Simpson said.
Simpson told The Associated Press the couple didn’t have any children, but that Holly’s wife has a child who is “pretty much the same age as our victim.” Simpson would not give specifics on how well the families knew each other.
When asked if Jersey and the child of Holly’s wife were friends, Simpson said, “They’re the same age, I think you could categorize them as family friends, acquaintances, all that.”
Simpson said Monday that Holly will have a bail and probable cause hearing Wednesday, during which a probable cause affidavit will be released. At that point, “many questions related to this investigation and arrest will be answered,” Simpson said.
He wouldn’t release details Tuesday of how Jersey died or what led police to Holly, nor would he discuss possible motives.
Prosecutor Van Stone didn’t return phone messages Tuesday seeking comment.
Jersey’s short life was checkered with discomfort. About a year before her death, her father and stepmother were charged with abuse after investigators discovered they had chained her to a dresser to stop her wandering around the house at night. David Bridgeman, Jersey’s father, told investigators he restrained his daughter to prevent her from getting into medication and other things around the house.
David and Jana Bridgeman, Jersey’s stepmother, pleaded guilty in June to false imprisonment, permitting abuse of a minor and endangering the welfare of a minor.
Jana Bridgeman is serving a 12-year prison sentence, plus three years for a probation revocation. David Bridgeman is serving an 18-year prison sentence.
Police Capt. Justin Thompson said there was “no reason … for the community to be worried at this point,” but otherwise revealed little more about the homicide investigation in Bentonville some 215 miles northwest of Little Rock.
Thompson said the girl died sometime between midnight and 6:53 a.m. on the day her body was found. He would not say who called 911 to report her missing. Investigators later searched the home where she lived and the house where her body was found, as well as the homes in between.
A funeral for Jersey is set for 1 p.m. Tuesday at Rollins Funeral Chapel in Rogers.
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