LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – A prosecutor said Monday he plans to seek the death penalty for an Arkansas man accused of killing a 6-year-old neighbor who already had been the victim of abuse by her father and stepmother.
Zachary Holly is charged with capital murder, rape, kidnapping and residential burglary in Jersey Bridgeman’s disappearance and death in November. Holly, 28, pleaded not guilty Monday to all charges.
In charging paperwork filed last week, prosecutor Van Stone said Holly restrained the girl “with the purpose of engaging in sexual intercourse, deviate sexual activity, or sexual contact with Jersey Bridgeman.” Authorities have said the girl was suffocated.
Stone told The Associated Press on Monday that he plans to pursue the death penalty against Holly.
One of Holly’s lawyers, Pat Aydelott, said he could not talk about the facts of the case but that he would use all available resources to defend his client.
Authorities arrested Holly several days after Jersey Bridgeman was found dead Nov. 20 in a vacant home next to Holly’s in Bentonville, a community about 215 miles northwest of Little Rock that is best known as the home of Wal-Mart’s headquarters.
Jersey’s death ended a short life marred by abuse. In late 2011, 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.
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. Jersey’s stepmother is serving a 12-year sentence, plus three years for a probation revocation, after pleading guilty to the same charges.
Jersey was at Holly’s house the night before her body was found. Holly and his wife, Amanda Holly, often babysat Jersey and her younger sister, according to court documents.
Jersey’s mother, DesaRae Bridgeman, told police she went next door to visit the couple after she came home from work. Then, Holly carried Jersey to the Bridgeman house, while Jersey’s mother carried Jersey’s younger sister, and they placed them in bed.
When DesaRae Bridgeman woke up the next morning, Jersey was missing from the bed where her 2-year-old sister was still sleeping, according to court documents.
DesaRae Bridgeman looked around the house, then asked Zachary and Amanda Holly to help her before calling 911 to report Jersey missing, according to court documents.
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 having anything to do with Jersey’s disappearance or death, police said in a court document. They said he was cooperative and agreed to give detectives swabs of his check for DNA tests.
Holly was being held without bond at the Benton County Jail. He is due back in court Feb. 28.
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