Oskaloosa Tuesday was the first time Tom Bledsoe was completely truthful about the death of 14-year-old Camille Arfmann, according to his testimony on the second day of his brother's trial for the murder.
In November, Tom Bledsoe told investigators he killed the girl. A week later he told authorities the confession was a lie made up under the threat of blackmail. He then said his brother, Floyd S. Bledsoe, had admitted killing Arfmann.
On the stand Tuesday, Tom Bledsoe said elements of his second version of the killing also were false, embellished to make the story more appealing to investigators.
For instance, he said in November that he had uncovered Arfmann's body, then reburied it, after his brother confessed the murder to him.
"Was that a lie?" defense attorney John Kurth asked Tuesday.
"Yes it was," Tom Bledsoe said.
"Trying to make your story sound better?" Kurth asked.
"Yep," Tom Bledsoe responded.
Tuesday he said he never saw Camille's body but merely visited the site where it was hidden.
Tom Bledsoe testified for three hours, called by prosecutors seeking to convict his brother on felony charges of first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated indecent liberties with a child. Arfmann was the sister of Heidi Bledsoe, Floyd's wife.
So far, Tom Bledsoe is the only witness in the trial to directly link Floyd Bledsoe to Arfmann's death. Tom Bledsoe was charged with the murder Nov. 8 but was released Nov. 15, the same day his brother was charged.
'Tell no one'
Tom Bledsoe said he saw his brother on Nov. 6. Arfmann had been missing a day, but her body had not been found. Floyd Bledsoe slumped in his car, with his head on the steering wheel.
"I asked him what was wrong," Tom Bledsoe said. "He said she was dead."
Tom Bledsoe has a hearing problem and said he couldn't clearly hear everything his brother said.
"He was mumbling. I don't know if he said 'I' or 'We -- accidentally shot her.'
"I asked him why she was dead. He shook his head and shrugged his shoulders."
He said Floyd Bledsoe told him where the girl was buried.
"He asked me not to tell no one," Tom Bledsoe said. "He said if someone comes around snooping, for me to take the blame."
Late Nov. 7, Tom Bledsoe did take the blame. He left two recorded phone messages for a member of his church, saying he had done "something terrible."
Then he surrendered to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department.
"Tom, did you kill Camille Arfmann?" Jefferson County Attorney Jim Vanderbilt asked.
"No, sir," Bledsoe said.
"Why did you leave those messages on (the) answering machine?" Vanderbilt asked.
"I didn't want people to find out about my past," Bledsoe said.
Tom Bledsoe apparently was worried his brother would tell about his use of pornography and other embarrassing sexual activities, details of which did not come out during the testimony.
Kurth said Tom Bledsoe told an investigator that he loved Arfmann and hoped she would be his "first," but Bledsoe denied that on the stand.
"Why should (jurors) believe what you're telling them today?" Vanderbilt asked.
Bledsoe was silent for more than 15 seconds.
"I had no reason to hurt Camille, or anything," he said.
Hunter heard cry
A man who had been hunting near the dairy where Floyd Bledsoe worked testified he heard a girl cry for help on the same day Arfmann disappeared.
Col. William S. Knoebel, stationed then at Fort Leavenworth, told the jury he was bowhunting deer when he heard the cries.
"There was a peculiar sound of when you hear a girl or a woman scream that wasn't typical of a small fight or tiff," Knoebel said.
The scream, he said, was "of someone clearly in distress."
The scream sounded as if it came from a nearby wooded valley.
"I moved off in that direction to see if I could assist the person who needed help," Knoebel said.
But he was confronted by dogs. Rather than shoot the dogs, Knoebel climbed a tree to see if he could see or hear more. He could not.
Knoebel said he regrets not shooting the dogs and perhaps saving Arfmann's life.
"I agonized in my heart about that," he said.
Other testimony Tuesday suggested Floyd Bledsoe had the opportunity to kill Arfmann.
According to several witnesses, Floyd Bledsoe left his job Nov. 5 to run an errand during the afternoon, not returning for more than an hour. Kurth said his client was visiting a friend at a hardware store.
The trial, which is expected to last the week, is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. today.