BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) – An Arkansas man accused of killing a 6-year-old girl who lived next door cried the day her body was found in a nearby vacant home, neighbors said Tuesday.
Police in Bentonville arrested Zachary Holly, 28, on Monday _ about a week after Jersey Bridgeman’s body was found next to the mobile home where Holly lived.
Holly is being held in the Benton County Jail on capital murder, kidnapping and residential burglary charges. He is due in court Wednesday, when public defender Jay Saxton said he expects the judge to appoint a lawyer with the public defender’s commission to represent Holly.
Jersey, whose father and stepmother are in prison for chaining her to a dresser last year, was found dead just minutes after someone reported her missing on Nov. 20.
One neighbor, Julie Pickard, said Tuesday that Holly wept before authorities brought Jersey’s body out of the vacant home.
“He was crying for a long time,” said Pickard, who lives on the other side of the home where Jersey’s body was found.
Later that day, Pickard said, police knocked on her door and told her to let them know if she saw a man wearing Mountain Dew pajama pants.
“(Holly) was wearing Mountain Dew pajama pants,” Pickard said.
Bentonville Police Chief Jon Simpson wouldn’t release details Tuesday of how Jersey died or what led police to Holly, nor would he discuss possible motives.
No one answered the door Tuesday at the mobile home where police say Holly lived with his wife. A child’s bicycle rested on a patch of grass near the home in the city that’s about 215 miles northwest of Little Rock.
Simpson told The Associated Press the couple didn’t have any children but that Holly’s wife has a child who is “pretty much the same age as our victim.” Simpson described Holly as “an acquaintance” and a friend of Jersey’s family.
Next door, a child’s bike with training wheels lay in front of the house where police said Jersey lived with her mother, DesaRae Bridgeman. Nearby was a deflated balloon decorated with the kinds of princesses that fill little girls’ dreams.
Less than a mile away, Jersey’s family buried the little girl who lived through more than her share of hardship. Police said the family requests privacy as they grieve.
Jersey’s death comes after her father and stepmother chained the girl to a dresser last year. David Bridgeman told investigators he restrained his daughter to prevent her from getting into medication and other things around the house in nearby Rogers.
David Bridgeman and Jersey’s stepmother, Jana Bridgeman, pleaded guilty in June to false imprisonment, permitting abuse of a minor and endangering the welfare of a minor. She is serving a 12-year prison sentence, plus three years for a probation revocation. He is serving an 18-year prison sentence.
Simpson, the police chief, said Holly worked at a restaurant in town called The Flying Burrito Company. The manager, Tabitha Stevens, confirmed that Holly worked there but declined to comment any further.
Simpson said many questions about the investigation will be answered when a probable cause affidavit is released Wednesday.
In the meantime, those who knew Jersey are remembering the little girl who was still joyful despite what was, by all indications, a difficult life.
“I don’t know how she dealt with it, but she dealt with it and she still smiled the whole time,” family friend Mike Whitcomb said.
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