Published November 28, 2012
BENTONVILLE, Ark. – A northwest Arkansas man accused of killing a 6-year-old neighbor appeared in court Wednesday for the first time since his arrest, where it emerged that prosecutors had added rape to the list of preliminary charges against him.
Zachary Holly appeared to be shaking during the early portion of the hearing in his hometown of Bentonville, a community 215 miles northwest of Little Rock that's best known for being home to Wal-Mart's headquarters.
Judge Robin Green ruled there was enough evidence to justify keeping Holly locked up on preliminary charges of capital murder, rape, kidnapping and residential burglary. She assigned a public defender to represent Holly and ordered him held without bond. He has not been formally charged, and his next court appearance is scheduled for January.
Authorities haven't said how Holly's neighbor, Jersey Bridgeman, was killed, but they were expected to release probable cause documents later Wednesday that would include further details about the investigation.
Jersey's body was found shortly after she was reported missing Nov. 20 in a vacant home adjacent to Holly's and two doors down from her own. Investigators believe she was killed earlier that day.
Holly, who police say was friends with the girl's family, was arrested Monday. He was being held in Benton County Jail, where on Tuesday an inmate managed to slip into his cell while helping hand out fresh clothes and towels and attack Holly, jail Capt. Chris Sparks said Wednesday. He said Holly wasn't seriously injured, and that the inmate, who was in jail on a parole violation, could face additional charges.
"Obviously this case has gotten a lot of exposure in the media and all the inmates know what he's in for..." Sparks said. "We're going to do our best to try and keep him safe, just like we do every other inmate."
Bentonville police Chief Jon Simpson said Holly was friends with Jersey's family, and that he worked at a restaurant in town called The Flying Burrito Company. The manager, Tabitha Stevens, confirmed that Holly worked there but declined to comment further.
One neighbor, Julie Pickard, said Tuesday that Holly wept the day Jersey's body was found.
"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.
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.
Simpson told The Associated Press that couple didn't have any children together but that Holly's wife, Amanda Holly, has a child who is "pretty much the same age as our victim." It wasn't immediately clear if the child was living with Holly and his wife.
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. Joshua Bryant, the lawyer, declined to say how many children Amanda Holly has.
Jersey's mother, DesaRae Bridgeman, and other relatives laid her to rest Tuesday in a cemetery less than a mile from her home. The family has requested privacy.
Jersey's short life was not an easy one. Last year, 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.
They both pleaded guilty in June to charges of false imprisonment, permitting the 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.
Jersey moved in with her mother and for a short time at least, apparently got a fresh start, enrolling in kindergarten this fall.
Those who knew Jersey say she was full of joy despite the heartbreak that had already befallen her.
"I don't know how she dealt with it, but she dealt with it and she still smiled the whole time," Mike Whitcomb, who was friends with her father, said Tuesday.