Jersey Bridgeman Murder: Ark. girl was suffocated and apparently raped, police say

Jersey Bridgeman
Bentonville Police Department via AP
Jersey Bridgeman
Bentonville Police Department via AP

(CBS/AP) BENTONVILLE, Ark. - Jersey Bridgeman, the 6-year-old victim in a child abuse case last year who was found dead last week in a vacant home in her neighborhood, was suffocated and apparently raped, Arkansas authorities said in a court document released Wednesday.

Pictures: Arkansas girl allegedly slain by neighbor

Jersey 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, made his first court appearance on Wednesday and listened as rape was added to his list of capital murder, kidnapping and residential burglary charges.

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.

Jersey's father and her stepmother, David and Jane Bridgeman, were arrested last year for chaining the girl to a dresser in their home in the nearby town of Rogers. David Bridgeman told investigators that he restrained Jersey to keep her from getting into medication and other things in the house.

David Bridgeman 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.

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

The night before her body was found, Jersey was at the Holly home. Zachary and his wife, Amanda Holly, would often baby-sit Jersey and her younger sister, according to the court document.

The document said Jersey's mother, DesaRae Bridgeman, told police she went next door to visit the couple after she came home from work around 11 p.m. on Nov. 19.

"Afterwards, Zachary Holly carried Jersey home to DesaRae's house, while DesaRae carried Jersey's younger sister, and they placed the two children in the same bed," Bentonville Detective Sgt. Kris Moffit wrote in the court document.

When DesaRae Bridgeman woke up the next morning, Jersey was missing from the bed where her 2-year-old sister was still sleeping, the court document said. The mother looked around the house and then asked Zachary and Amanda Holly to help her before calling 911 to report Jersey missing.

Police searched the Bridgeman and Holly homes before an officer noticed the back door of a nearby vacant house was open. Officers entered the house and found the girl's body.

During an interview with authorities that day, Zachary Holly denied any involvement with Jersey's disappearance or death, police said in the court document. They said he was cooperative and agreed to give detectives swabs of his cheek for DNA tests. He also agreed to give detectives the clothes he wore the night before Jersey's body was found.

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

Complete coverage of Jersey Bridgeman on Crimesider