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Neighbor accused of killing Ark. girl

BENTONVILLE, Ark. - A 6-year-old Arkansas girl found dead in a vacant home was suffocated and apparently raped, authorities said in a court document released Wednesday.

Authorities also said Jersey Bridgeman died of asphyxia.

Zachary Holly, a 28-year-old neighbor accused of killing Jersey, appeared in court Wednesday for the first time since his arrest. Holly appeared to be shaking during the hearing, where it emerged that he also faces a rape charge, in addition to capital murder, kidnapping and residential burglary charges.

Judge Robin Green assigned a public defender to represent Holly and ordered him held without bond. Formal charges will be filed sometime before his next court date, scheduled for Jan. 7.

Holly didn't say anything to reporters as he was escorted into the courtroom in Bentonville, a community 215 miles northwest of Little Rock.

Jersey's body was found shortly after she was reported missing Nov. 20 in a vacant home adjacent to Holly's and two doors down from where she and her mother lived. Investigators believe she was killed earlier that day.

Holly, who police say was friends with the girl's family, was arrested Monday. He was being held in Benton County Jail.

Bentonville Police Chief Jon Simpson said Holly was friends with Jersey's family.

No one answered the door Tuesday at the mobile home where police say Holly lived with his wife, Amanda Holly.

Amanda Holly's family issued a statement through a lawyer Wednesday asking for privacy.

"Jersey was a very sweet girl who our children and grandchildren considered their best friend. Because of this, we ask for privacy. The children in our family are not dealing well with the loss of their friend," the family said.

Jersey's mother and other relatives laid her to rest Tuesday in a cemetery less than a mile from her home. The family has requested privacy.

Jersey's short life was not an easy one. Last year, her father, David Bridgeman, and stepmother, Jana Bridgeman, were arrested for chaining her to a dresser in their home in the nearby town of Rogers. David Bridgeman told investigators that he restrained the girl to keep her from getting into medication and other things in the house.

They both pleaded guilty in June to charges of false imprisonment, permitting the abuse of a minor and endangering the welfare of a minor. She is serving a 12-year prison sentence, plus three years for a probation revocation. He is serving an 18-year prison sentence.

 


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