BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — After her father and stepmother were arrested last year for chaining her to a dresser, young Jersey Bridgeman received something of a fresh start when she moved in with her mother and began kindergarten this fall in northwest Arkansas.
Then last week, searchers found the 6-year-old's body in a vacant home two doors down from her mother's and next to that of the family friend suspected of killing her.
"The fact that she went through what she went through when she was 5 ... and then this happens. She had such a rough life," Chelsea Jouett, a family acquaintance, said Tuesday after leaving a teddy bear at the girl's home in Bentonville, a community about 215 miles northwest of Little Rock best known for Wal-Mart's corporate headquarters.
Zachary Holly, 28, was arrested Monday on capital murder, kidnapping and residential burglary charges in Jersey's death. He was due in court later Wednesday, when a judge was expected to appoint him a public defender.
Holly was being held in Benton County Jail, where on Tuesday an inmate managed to slip into his cell while helping hand out fresh clothes and towels and attack Holly, jail Capt. Chris Sparks said Wednesday. He said Holly wasn't seriously injured, and that the inmate, who was in jail on a parole violation, could face additional charges.
"Obviously this case has gotten a lot of exposure in the media and all the inmates know what he's in for..." Sparks said. "We're going to do our best to try and keep him safe, just like we do every other inmate."
Jersey was found during a Nov. 20 search just minutes after she was reported missing, police said. Investigators believe she was killed earlier that day, but they haven't said how she was killed or what the motive may have been.
Authorities are expected to release a probable cause statement later Wednesday that Chief Jon Simpson said would answer a lot of questions about the investigation.
Simpson said Holly was friends with Jersey's family, and that he worked at a restaurant in town called The Flying Burrito Company. The manager, Tabitha Stevens, confirmed that Holly worked there but declined to comment further.
One neighbor, Julie Pickard, said Tuesday that Holly wept the day Jersey's body was found.
"He was crying for a long time," said Pickard, who lives on the other side of the home where Jersey's body was found.
Later that day, Pickard said, police knocked on her door and told her to let them know if she saw a man wearing Mountain Dew pajama pants.
"(Holly) was wearing Mountain Dew pajama pants," Pickard said.
No one answered the door Tuesday at the mobile home where police say Holly lived with his wife. A child's bicycle rested on a patch of grass near the home.
Simpson told The Associated Press that couple didn't have any children together but that Holly's wife, Amanda Holly, has a child who is "pretty much the same age as our victim." It wasn't immediately clear if the child was living with Holly and his wife.
Amanda Holly's family issued a statement through a lawyer Wednesday asking for privacy.
"Jersey was a very sweet girl who our children and grandchildren considered their best friend. Because of this, we ask for privacy. The children in our family are not dealing well with the loss of their friend," the family said. Joshua Bryant, the lawyer, declined to say how many children Amanda Holly has.
Jersey's mother, DesaRae Bridgeman, and other relatives laid her to rest Tuesday in a cemetery less than a mile from her home. The family has requested privacy.
The girl's father, David Bridgeman, and stepmother, Jana Bridgeman, were arrested last year for chaining her to a dresser in their home in the nearby town of Rogers. David Bridgeman told investigators that he restrained the girl to keep her from getting into medication and other things in the house.
They both pleaded guilty in June to charges of false imprisonment, permitting the abuse of a minor and endangering the welfare of a minor. She is serving a 12-year prison sentence, plus three years for a probation revocation. He is serving an 18-year prison sentence.
Meanwhile, those who knew Jersey are remembering the little girl who was still joyful despite what was by all indications a difficult life.
"I don't know how she dealt with it, but she dealt with it and she still smiled the whole time," said Mike Whitcomb, who was friends with Jersey's father.
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