BENTON COUNTY (KFSM) - A jury found Zachary Holly guilty of capital murder on Wednesday (May 20), officials say.
The jury also found him guilty of rape, kidnapping and residential burglary.
The same jury that convicted Holly also will decide whether to sentence him to death or to life in prison. The sentencing phase began shortly after Judge Brad Karren read the guilty verdicts. Not long after the prosecutor and defense lawyers concluded their opening statements in the sentencing phase, court went into recess for the afternoon. The sentencing phase is set to resume on Thursday (May 20).
On Nov. 20, 2012, Holly raped and killed six-year-old Jersey Bridgeman in Bentonville.
Closing arguments started around 10 a.m. on Wednesday, and jury deliberation started shortly before 11 a.m.
On Tuesday (May 19), the 12-person jury heard from state Assistant Medical Examiner Frank Peretti, who testified the child died of strangulation after her pajama bottoms were wrapped around her neck three times and knotted on the right side.
“I knew as soon as she came into the lab what the cause of death was,” Peretti said, referring to the tightly wrapped pajamas around the child’s neck.
Peretti also told the jury Jersey Bridgeman had scratches on her neck indicating that she tried to claw the pajamas off, and she had scrapes on her knees indicating that she had been face down at some point during the attack. He said people going through strangulation undergo panic and maybe some pain before blacking out.
The prosecution rested their case at about 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday.