Archive for Thursday, November 18, 1999

Friends relieved charges were dismissed against Oskaloosa man

November 18, 1999

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Friends of Thomas E. Bledsoe say that he wouldn't hurt a fly and that they would trust him with their children.

For five days Thomas E. Bledsoe sat in the Jefferson County Jail, accused of the murder of his sister-in-law's sister.

He was released Friday, and first-degree murder charges against him were formally dismissed Monday at the request of the Jefferson County attorney.

Friends of Bledsoe say they never believed he was capable of such an act. They've spoken to the Journal-World throughout the past two days. This is how they described Bledsoe:

"A sweet and honest person who wouldn't hurt a fly."

"I would go to the end of my reaches to do anything for him."

"He's a very sincere Christian. He's a good kid."

"I would trust Tom with my child," who is 8.

"Yes, I would trust my children with him. My daughter knows Tom. She knows he's a very good man. She's 15 years old. She was very sad to hear what happened to him."

"Really, Tom's life was his church and his belief in God."

Bledsoe's brother, Floyd Scott Bledsoe, is being held without bond in the murder of Camille Arfmann, 14.

Friends are at a loss to understand how Thomas Bledsoe came to be charged with the murder of a young girl. Nor could they offer any explanation for how he came to lead sheriff's officers to Arfmann's body, which was buried underneath trash and dirt in a ditch north of Thomas Bledsoe's home.

Kathy Reusch, who would go "to the end of her reaches" for the man she would trust with her 8-year-old child, said Thomas Bledsoe liked to hunt and had talked about going deer hunting soon.

"I know he wanted to do a hunting trip," Reusch said. "Maybe he was out checking the trees for scrapes and stumbled across something."

Reusch did a Bible study with Thomas Bledsoe, whose life she described as being centered on his belief in God.

Jim Bolinger, a youth group leader at Countryside Baptist Church where Bledsoe was active said the sincere Christian and good kid he has known for 10 years was tearfully welcomed by the congregation at services Sunday night.

Over and over again, Bolinger described Thomas Bledsoe as helpful to young and old.

Friends said he was a man who took off from work to help with church camps and Vacation Bible School. They also describe him as "timid" or "easily intimidated."

Cathy Reid, whose 15-year-old was saddened at the news of Thomas Bledsoe's arrest, said, "I never heard him say a bad word.

"He was always speaking with respect around me as a lady," she said.

Neither Thomas Bledsoe nor his attorney Michael Hayes replied to requests for interviews.

Jefferson County Sheriff Roy Dunnaway said Monday that Thomas Bledsoe had not been ruled out as a suspect in Arfmann's death.

-- Erwin Seba's phone message number is 832-7145. His e-mail address is eseba@ljworld.com.

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