On the one-year anniversary of the death of six-year-old Jersey Bridgeman, the Children's Advocacy Center of Benton County (CAC) organized a balloon launch to honor the Bentonville girl, as well as other children who died from abuse Wednesday (Nov. 20).
Jersey was found dead two doors down from her house last November, raped and strangled. The Bentonville girl's accused killer, Zachary Holly, remains in jail awaiting trial.
Jersey has a statue with her name on it in the Memory Garden at the CAC. She would have been seven years old last week.
"We'll never forget her and just how comfortable she was here, full of life," said Natalie Tibbs, assistant director for the center.
People who attended tied blue ribbons around their wrists and held balloons. Blue represents child abuse awareness.
"For not only Jersey's family, but for all of the other children that have died in Benton County since our opening, that we're not going to forget them," Tibbs said.
Jersey's mom Desiree was present along with family and friends. They brought several purple balloons, Jersey's favorite color. Balloons were then released to honor the six year old and other little ones who died from abuse.
Bentonville Police Chief Jon Simpson said he wouldn't have missed the ceremony.
"I think it's one for myself and all the investigators and all the other agencies that helped us, including the Sheriff's Office and the FBI," Simpson said. "I think it has definitely made it's mark."
Simpson said police are preparing for the murder case against Holly, set to go to trial in April.
"I think the best thing that we can do to remember her is just to continue the vigilance that we have specifically against child abuse," Simpson said.
Many of the children who have a statue in the Memory Garden didn't get to see their first birthday. Tibbs said Jersey is one of the oldest.
"She already had so much life past what the other children got to experience, but that's just it. How much more could she have had and got to enjoy? What kind of person could she had been?" Tibbs said. "We'll never know."
Jersey would have been seven last week.