No suspect has been named in the murder of a 6-year-old Bentonville girl. However, law enforcement agencies are looking into sex offenders who may live in the area where Jersey Bridgeman was found dead Tuesday, said Bentonville Police Captain Justin Thompson.
Jersey’s body was found in an abandoned house two doors down from her home on S.E. “A” Street. Seven Level II sex offenders are registered as living within a few miles of the crime scene.
Level II means they’re at moderate risk for re-offending.
Investigators were back at the crime scene Friday and spoke with a woman who lives in the home between Jersey’s home and the house where she was found dead. It’s also one of the homes where police collected evidence sent to the state crime lab.
When asked if she knew Jersey, the woman replied: “Pray for her family, that’s all I ask.”
5NEWS asked her if she lived there with her husband and she told our crew to get off of the property.
There was no forced entry into Jersey’s home leading up to her death, police said.
“We are not holding anybody for questioning,” Bentonville Police Chief Jon Simpson said. “We have a list of witnesses of persons and witnesses and potential other persons that we are working through.”
Bentonville police said Jersey’s mother, DesaRae, and family have been cooperative with the investigation. Family members told police they did not want to make any statement to the media.
Simpson said the involved agencies have firm control of the case involving the death of Jersey Bridgeman and that there is no reason for the public to worry.
When asked by 5NEWS whether there is no public safety concern because police have a suspect, Simpson said, “Whenever you start answering questions like that, you’re not doing a very good job of protecting that investigation…The most important thing to recognize is, there’s not a real public safety issue here that needs to be addressed.”
Simpson continued, “Instead, there’s an issue that just needs to be taken care of and that process is already in progress.”
Bentonville police said Wednesday they have no one in custody and would not comment on whether they had any suspects or persons of interest. Simpson said such information could compromise the case.
Officers served three search warrants on three homes Tuesday, including the girl’s home, the house two doors down where she was found dead, and a trailer residence between the houses. Police collected about 50 pieces of evidence during the searches, Simpson said.
Police questioned the man on Tuesday living in the trailer at 702 S.E. A St.
The department received a call at 6:43 a.m. of a child missing from her home at 608 S.E. A St., according to the release from Police Chief Jon Simpson said.
A neighborhood search resulted in the body being discovered, the release states. The girl’s body was located within 15 minutes, according to police.
The Benton County coroner arrived at the house where the child was reported missing at about 10 a.m. and was later seen bringing a body out of a vacant house two doors down at 704 S.E. A St.
Jersey was inside the vacant house at the time of her death, police said.
Police waited Tuesday night outside the Bentonville house where Jersey lived and the house two doors down where her body was discovered.
Simpson said no one is in the family’s home, and he would not discuss the mother’s whereabouts.
Bentonville school administrators are discussing how to help students grieve from the loss of a classmate when the school district resumes classes Monday. They hope to have a plan finalized by Saturday, said Mary Ley, a spokesperson for the district.
Jersey was a kindergarten student at Sugar Creek Elementary, Ley said.
Just before midnight Tuesday, police said they would stay and patrol the area. At times, four police vehicles patrolled the lit up Southeast A Street near the Bentonville Library. Authorities were at the site early Wednesday, including FBI agents who arrived shortly before noon to offer assistance.
A man identifying himself as Jersey’s grandfather said in the comments section of the 5NEWS website that Jersey lived with her mother, DesaRae Bridgeman. On her Facebook page, DesaRae says she is in a relationship with a man named Brandon Thomas. His Facebook page contains references to Jersey. He mentions on his page that Jersey’s birthday was Nov. 14. Neighbors told 5NEWS Jersey had a 6th birthday party on Sunday.
DesaRae is shown in a photograph with this story holding a child identified by neighbor Dariel Eubanks as Jersey. The photo is from Thomas’ Facebook page. Another photo on this page, also from Thomas’ Facebook page, shows him holding the child. He says on his Facebook page he works at an E-Z Mart.
DesaRae Bridgeman also works at the E-Z Mart, store employees said.
Police on Tuesday were in the E-Z Mart nearest Jersey’s house, interviewing employees and examining items on store shelves.
Police estimate Jersey’s death took place between midnight and about 6:45 a.m.
Thomas worked at the convenience store from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., an E-Z Mart employee told 5NEWS.
Jersey is the same child whose father and stepmother were imprisoned for chaining her to a dresser earlier this year.
David Bridgeman was sentenced to 18 years in prison in June after he pleaded guilty to false imprisonment, permitting the abuse of a minor and endangering the welfare of a minor.
Jana Suzanne Slinkard, the girl’s stepmother, was sentenced to 12 years in prison on the same charges. She received an additional three years for violating her probation on a previous drug offense.
The Bentonville home at 608 S.E. A St., valued at $46,049, is owned by William Wallace and Supha Xayprasith of Brooklyn, N.Y., records show. Wallace has been listed as the home’s owner since 2006. Wallace is listed as property owner on at least five other residences in Benton County, including one in Bella Vista.
The house at 704 S.E. A St., near where Jersey’s body was found, is also owned by Wallace and Xayprasith, but the property is vacant, officials said. The pair also own the trailer at 702 S.E. A St., records show.