Benton County Prosecuting Attorney Van Stone said Monday (Jan.7) he will seek the death penalty in the November killing of 6-year-old Jersey Bridgeman of Bentonville.
During the arraignment on Monday, the kindergartner’s mother, DesaRae Bridgeman, sat on the front row, as she did at a Nov. 28 bond hearing in the same courtroom.
DesaRae declined to go on camera, but told us she is pleased the prosecutor is asking for the death penalty. She couldn’t comment further as the prosecution asked the family not to speak about the case.
Last week Stone filed charges against Zachary Holly, 28, in the death. On Monday, Holly pleaded not guilty to the charges against him during a brief arraignment before Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green in a packed courtroom. Holly was one of several criminal suspects being arraigned Monday.
At arraignments, suspects are read the charges against them and then enter a plea. Not guilty pleas are common at arraignments, allowing attorneys to prepare their case for trial.
Judge Green gave Holly a pre-trial court date of Feb. 28 in Division 2, where he will appear before Judge Brad Karren. That hearing is set to begin at 8:30 a.m.
Holly has been charged with capital murder, kidnapping, rape and residential burglary.
The suspect has been held in Benton County Jail without bond on an order by Judge Green at the November bond hearing.
The Bentonville girl, who was found killed Nov. 20, died of asphyxiation, according to an affidavit of probable cause released by authorities.
Jersey lived at 608 S.E. A St. with her mother, who called the police early in the morning Nov. 20 to report her daughter was missing. Officers found Jersey’s body fewer than 15 minutes later, in a nearby vacant house at 704 S.E. A St.
The probable cause affidavit states Holly and his wife babysat Jersey the night of her death while DesaRae Bridgeman and Bridgeman’s boyfriend were working at a nearby convenience store. Holly later carried Jersey back to her house shortly after DesaRae Bridgeman returned around 11 p.m.. He told police he had nothing to do with Jersey’s death, according to the report.
A swab test on Jersey’s body showed traces of sperm, according to the affidavit. Holly consented to cheek swabs for DNA comparison. He also gave authorities clothes he had worn since going to bed the night of Jersey’s death, the report states.
DesaRae Bridgeman called police at about 6:45 a.m. to report her daughter missing. Jersey and her younger sister shared a bed, but Jersey was nowhere to be seen, the report states. Police estimated her death to have been between midnight and 6:45 a.m.
While on the phone with police, Bridgeman became so upset that she had to hand the phone off to Holly’s wife.
While searching for Jersey, an officer noticed the back door to 704 S.E. A St. was open. Jersey’s body was found minutes later inside the vacant house.