BENTONVILLE (KFSM) - The 6-year-old girl killed in Bentonville in 2012 was raped by her neighbor, Zachary Holly, and strangled to death with her pajama bottoms, prosecutors said in court on Monday (May 18).
The girl, Jersey Bridgeman, was found face down in a closet without any clothing in a vacant home two doors from her own house, prosecutors said during opening statements. She was also strangled with a necklace made of pasta, according to prosecutors. The necklace also had a green plastic toy car on it.
The opening statements in the capital murder trial of a Holly, accused of killing and raping Jersey Bridgeman in Bentonville, began at the Benton County Courthouse Monday morning before Circuit Judge Brad Karren.
The jury was shown photographs of Jersey Bridgeman at the death scene. Some jurors were seen crying in court.
Holly, 30, is charged with raping and killing Jersey Bridgeman.
The 12 jurors who will decide whether Holly is guilty were selected last week. If found guilty, Holly faces the death sentence. All the jurors and three alternates said they would be willing to sentence Holly to death if found guilty but also would be open to sentencing him to life without parole.
Bridgeman lived at 608 S.E. A St. with her mother, who called the police early in the morning of Nov. 20, 2012, to report her daughter was missing. Officers located the child’s body fewer than 15 minutes later in a nearby vacant house at 704 S.E. A St., officials said.
Court documents state that Holly and his wife babysat the child the night of her death while her mother, DesaRae Bridgeman, and Bridgeman’s boyfriend were working at a nearby convenience store. Holly and his wife lived next door to the Bridgemans.
A swab test on Jersey Bridgeman’s body showed traces of sperm, according to court documents. The cause of death was ruled as asphyxiation, documents state.
Holly consented to cheek swabs for DNA comparison and also gave authorities the clothing he had worn since going to bed the night of Jersey Bridgeman’s death, documents state.