Archive for Friday, December 10, 1999

Family of victim tries to cope with pain, loss

December 10, 1999

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— A grief-stricken family talks about the aftermath of murder.

Resting on Camille Arfmann's grave are photographs of the young friends who miss the 14-year-old found murdered in a ditch.

But the grief that has settled on this small town extends beyond those who knew the girl well.

"There are pictures on Camille's grave from kids that didn't even know her. They say things like 'I wish I had known you better,'" said Tommie Sue Arfmann, Camille's mother.

Camille Arfmann, the youngest of nine children, was buried Nov. 12 at Reformed Presbyterian Cemetery in Winchester, a couple of blocks from her mother's home; close enough that Tommie Arfmann can visit "sometimes several times a day."

"I don't like leaving her there alone," the mother said. "She should have had the right to live her life. They can't give me my daughter back. They can't breathe air back into her. They better be ready to pay. I'm from Alaska where a death deserves another death."

Tommie Arfmann said she hasn't returned to work since Nov. 5, when it first became apparent her daughter was missing.

"It's too hard," she said. "You can't be dependable in a job."

But not working doesn't help pay for the funeral.

"The funeral puts a financial hardship on the family. They won't bury someone until you pay for it," she said.

At the time of her disappearance, Camille was living here with her sister Heidi, Heidi's husband, Floyd, since charged with the murder, and the couple's two children: Cody, 2, and Christian, 9 months.

Bledsoe now sits in the Jefferson County Jail, awaiting a trial that is scheduled to begin Feb. 22.

"I went to face Floyd" at the jail "after we buried Camille," Tommie Arfmann said. "He wouldn't even look at me. He was sitting there eating like a king. He was eating better than lots of kids here in America," she said.

She's also looked at all the crime photos taken by law enforcement. Her daughter was shot four times, once in the back of the head and three times in the chest, according to court testimony.

"I wanted to see how they slaughtered her," Tommie Arfmann said. "It was really hard. One side of her face was blue."

Tommie said Heidi Bledsoe went back to work shortly after her sister's funeral.

"I think it was the next week, but I'm not sure. Heidi has bills to pay."

Heidi and her children have been living with Tommie in Winchester since Heidi's husband was arrested for the murder. Tommie and a family friend help care for the children while Heidi works.

Tommie said Heidi hasn't returned to the house in Oskaloosa since moving back to Winchester. The family is bitter toward Floyd Bledsoe.

"She doesn't want anything from the house," she said. "He left Heidi with no phone, no car and all those woods around. He had a car for him but he wouldn't let her drive."

"She lost a job because he didn't come home to take her to work one day," said Roberta Graika, another of Camille's sisters.

The Bledsoe phone had been disconnected, Tommie said, because of Floyd's calls to "psychic hotlines. I was going to get her a cell phone but I knew he would just run up the bill."

Tommie said Heidi has "backed away from Floyd. She doesn't go around him. Also, how do you tell a 2-year-old where their daddy is? How do you tell 'em he's in jail?"

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