Police: Slain Ark. girl was suffocated, raped

Associated Press Modified: November 28, 2012 at 8:01 pm •  Published: November 28, 2012
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BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — A 6-year-old Arkansas girl who was the victim in an abuse case last year and was found dead this past week in a vacant house in her neighborhood was suffocated and apparently raped, authorities said in a court document released Wednesday.

Jersey Bridgeman died of asphyxia or lack of oxygen, and physical evidence also showed signs of her being sexually assaulted, according to the document.

Zachary Holly, a 28-year-old neighbor accused of killing Jersey, appeared in court Wednesday for the first time since his Monday arrest. Holly, his arm shaking, listened as rape was added to the list of other charges he faces: capital murder, kidnapping and residential burglary.

Holly was ordered held without bond and assigned a public defender. Formal charges will be filed sometime before his next court date, scheduled for Jan. 7.

He didn't say anything to reporters as officers escorted him to and from the courtroom in Bentonville, a community about 215 miles northwest of Little Rock that's best known as the home of Wal-Mart's headquarters.

Jersey's death comes after a short life marred by abuse. 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.

He is serving an 18-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in June to false imprisonment, permitting the abuse of a minor and endangering the welfare of a minor. The stepmother is serving a 12-year sentence, plus three years for a probation revocation, after pleading guilty to the same charges.

Last week, Jersey's body was found in a vacant house adjacent to Holly's and two doors down from where the girl lived with her mother. Investigators have said they believe she was killed earlier that day, Nov. 20.

The night before her body was found, Jersey had been next door, where Holly and his wife, Amanda Holly, would often baby-sit Jersey and her younger sister, according to the court document.