BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — A neighbor has been arrested as a suspect in the killing of a 6-year-old Arkansas girl whose high-profile child abuse case last year sent her father and stepmother to prison, police said.
Jersey Bridgeman 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.
Zachary Holly, 28, who lives next door to where Jersey was staying, is being held in the Benton County Jail on charges of capital murder, kidnapping and residential burglary, police Chief Jon Simpson said Monday night.
Simpson said 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 did not release details of how Jersey died or what led police to Holly. Simpson said work by the State Crime Lab helped speed the arrest.
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 Rogers Funeral Home in Rogers.