Archive for Wednesday, November 10, 1999

Quiet hearing for defendant charged with girl’s slaying

November 10, 1999

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— The defendant sat quietly at a hearing for murder charges Tuesday.

As attorneys and a judge discussed future court proceedings that may decide his fate, Thomas Bledsoe sat quietly Tuesday afternoon in a small courtroom here.

Dressed in orange, jail-issue clothes, Bledsoe was manacled hand and foot, his handcuffs attached to a chain around his waist.

Charged with the first-degree murder of his sister-in-law's sister, Bledsoe nodded his head or answered "yes" or "no" as Jefferson County District Magistrate Court Judge Dennis Reiling asked him questions.

Zetta Camille Arfmann, 14, disappeared Friday afternoon. Her whereabouts were unknown until early Monday when Bledsoe led sheriff's officers to her body, which was buried in a ditch north of his home.

Bledsoe had no criminal record, Dunnaway said.

Peggy Craig, a counselor at Oskaloosa High School, said Bledsoe had no discipline problems that she could remember. Bledsoe, who was born in 1974, graduated in 1993 from the high school.

"He was kind of just an average kid," Craig said.

While in high school, Bledsoe took an electronics course the school offers with Kaw Area Technical School in Topeka.

Bledsoe listed his occupation as a guard at Farmland Industries in Lawrence when he was booked Monday into the Jefferson County Jail.

A spokesman for Farmland declined to comment about Bledsoe's employment. Jefferson County Sheriff Roy Dunnaway said he believed Farmland hired an outside firm to do its security work.

Neighbors said Bledsoe also worked for Walnut Springs Repair Service, a family-owned business.

Bledsoe wears hearing aids in each ear. His hearing didn't seem to hinder him in school, Craig said.

During Bledsoe's court appearance Tuesday, Reiling raised his voice so Bledsoe could hear him.

While Bledsoe sat quietly, tilting his head down, his face sometimes flushing red, family members sat nearby.

His father, Floyd Lee Bledsoe, sat with his head down and his hand pressed against his mouth. Other family members looked across the room or at others in the courtroom.

After the court proceeding ended, Bledsoe's father asked if family members could have a few moments alone with Thomas Bledsoe.

A jail official told them no, saying such a meeting would have to be at the jail.

Bledsoe was then led away to a waiting sheriff's vehicle.

At the high school Bledsoe and Arfmann attended, the flag flew at half-staff to honor the slain girl, Principal Patrick McKernan said. The request to lower the flag came from Jefferson County North schools, McKernan said. Arfmann attended Jefferson County North schools before transferring to Oskaloosa.

Students were still meeting with counselors Tuesday, said Bob Overstreet, interim superintendent of schools.

"It's going pretty well," Overstreet said. "We still have some upset kids. It's kind of just hitting them."

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