LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A prosecutor filed formal charges this week against an Arkansas man accused of raping and killing his 6-year-old neighbor who had been a victim in a prior abuse case.
Prosecutor Van Stone filed paperwork Wednesday charging Zachary Holly, 28, with capital murder, kidnapping, rape and residential burglary in the disappearance and death of 6-year-old Jersey Bridgeman.
The formal charges come days before Holly is due in court Monday for an arraignment.
His lawyer, Pat Aydelott, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Thursday. Stone, the prosecutor, did not return a phone message either.
Authorities arrested Holly several days after Jersey was found dead on 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.
In the charging paperwork filed Wednesday, prosecutors 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 child was suffocated.
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.
He 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. The 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 baby-sat 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 and 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 the court document. They said he was cooperative and agreed to give detectives swabs of his check for DNA tests.
He also agreed to give detectives the clothes he wore the night before Jersey's body was found, according to the court document.
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