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November 28, 2012

Cops: Suspect in girl’s death a family friend

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — The neighbor charged in the killing of a 6-year-old Arkansas girl was a family friend, police said Tuesday.

Bentonville Police Chief Jon Simpson described Zachary Holly, 28, as “an acquaintance” and a family friend who is from the area. Holly is being held in the Benton County Jail on charges of capital murder, kidnapping and residential burglary.

Jersey Bridgeman, whose high-profile child abuse case last year sent her father and stepmother to prison, was reported missing the morning of Nov. 20. Minutes after a search for her began, Jersey’s body was discovered in an abandoned house two doors from her home in Bentonville.

Holly and his wife live next door to where Jersey was staying, police said. Court records show the couple was married in March, Simpson said.

Simpson said 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.”

When asked if Jersey and the child of Holly’s wife were friends, Simpson said, “They’re the same age, I think you could categorize them as family friends, acquaintances, all that.”

Simpson said Monday that Holly will have a bail and probable cause hearing today, during which a probable cause affidavit will be released. At that point, “many questions related to this investigation and arrest will be answered,” Simpson said.

He wouldn’t release details Tuesday of how Jersey died or what led police to Holly, nor would he discuss possible motives.

Jersey’s short life was checkered with discomfort. About a year before her death, her father and stepmother were charged with abuse after investigators discovered they had chained her to a dresser to stop her wandering around the house at night. David Bridgeman, Jersey’s father, told investigators he restrained his daughter to prevent her from getting into medication and other things around the house.

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