Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Small Arkansas Town Rocked by Murder of 6-Year-Old

Jersey Bridgeman, 6. Family photo.

Six-year-old Jersey Bridgeman never had a chance. The rosy-cheeked tot had already seen her father and stepmother charged with abuse for chaining her to a dresser in their Arkansas home. Jersey was sent to live with her mother DesaRae in Bentonville, where she thrived, until two weeks ago, when her dead body was found in an abandoned house a few doors from her home.

Jersey was reported missing on November 20. Police found her remains in the nearby house minutes later when a police officer noticed the door ajar. A week later police arrested 28-year-old Zachary Holly. Prosecutors charged him with capital murder and kidnapping. Soon after, prosecutors added a rape charge as well.

The heartbreak of Jersey’s mother DesaRae Bridgeman was compounded by the fact that she counted next-door neighbors Zach Holly and his wife Amanda among her best friends. The Hollys had babysat Jersey and her younger sister the night she died. DesaRae told police she went to the Hollys after her shift ended at 11 pm — she carried her younger daughter home, while Holly carried Jersey.

When DesaRae woke up the next morning, Jersey was gone, only to be found dead of asphyxiation minutes after police were called. Acording to a probable cause affidavit (seen below,) her body was discovered in the closet of a vacant home on A Street, the same street where DesaRae and the Hollys lived.

Zach Holly. Police photo.

As the last person to see Jersey, police questioned Zach Holly right away. He told police that he had gotten up overnight to walk to the local EZ Mart for stomach medication, and gone straight back to bed. Police did not disclose how they disproved Holly’s story, court documents said they found DNA evidence on Jersey’s body, and had taken a DNA sample from Holly.

Police might have found clues on Zachary Holly’s Facebook profile. His post on November 16 hints at “a HUGE mistake” that could threaten his life with wife Amanda. Amanda Holly’s profile has since been made private, but a day after Zachary’s arrest she allegedly changed her status from “married” to “divorced”. The two were married in March. Through her attorney, Amanda released a statement that did not mention her husband, but expressed sympathy for Jersey’s family and the admission “the children in our family are not dealing well with the loss of their friend.”

Zachary Holly had been in and out of Benton County Jail four times before the killing of Jersey Bridgeman — most recently in 2009 on suspicion of public intoxication, followed by two counts of contempt of court. But the circumstances now are far worse — and so is his treatment in jail. News reports say Holly was attacked in his jail cell by another inmate who was handing out clean clothes and towels. Holly was not seriously injured.

As the man charged in Jersey’s death sweats out his time in jail, the grieving family has had trouble avoiding conflict as well. Several family members started funds to raise money for Jersey’s funeral expenses. Jersey’s imprisoned father’s brother started a fund, drawing the ire of Jersey’s relatives on her mother’s side. Such an ugly ending almost seems in keeping with the beautiful young girl’s tragic life.

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