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Arrest in death of abuse girl

Neighbour held on charges against child abuse victim

Gulf News

Bentoville: A six-year-old girl who was at the centre of a high-profile child abuse case that sent her father and stepmother to prison was killed last week by a neighbour, Bentonville police said.

Jersey Bridgeman was reported missing the morning of November 20. Minutes after a search for her began, Jersey’s body was discovered in an abandoned house two doors from her home.

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 John Simpson said.

Simpson said Holly will have a bail and probable cause hearing Wednesday, during which a probable cause affidavit will be released.

“Many questions related to this investigation and arrest will be answered by the affidavit of probable cause, which will be released on Wednesday,” said the chief, who did not take questions from reporters.

Simpson said work by the State Crime Lab helped speed the arrest but did not say how Jersey was killed or release other details about her death or what led police to Holly.

The chief said the girl’s family had been notified about the arrest.

Jersey’s death came about a year after abuse allegations were levelled against her father and stepmother in nearby Rogers.

Court records show David Bridgeman told an investigator he cut a belt to fit around his daughter’s ankle and chained her to the dresser because she had accessed medication and other things around the house. Along with Jersey’s stepmother, Jana Bridgeman, the pair 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 revealed little about the homicide investigation, but police Captain Justin Thompson said earlier that there was “no reason for the community to be worried at this point”.

Thompson said the girl died some time the morning her body was found - between midnight and 6.53am. He would not reveal who called 911 to report her missing.

After Jersey’s body was found, investigators searched the home where she lived and the house where her body was found, as well as the homes in between.