Bledsoe prosecution rests
OSKALOOSA — After three days of trying to persuade jurors that Floyd S. Bledsoe murdered Camille Arfmann, his 14-year-old sister-in-law, prosecutors Wednesday rested their case.
And in a case full of strange twists, where brother testified against brother, another came Wednesday. Catherine Bledsoe, mother of the men, was called to the stand by prosecutors.
She said Floyd S. Bledsoe, 23, called her from jail days after his Nov. 15 arrest on kidnapping and murder charges. Catherine Bledsoe described this telephone conversation:
“I didn’t do it,” Floyd S. Bledsoe told her.
“Well, I know Tom didn’t do it,” she replied, referring to Floyd’s brother.
“Well, maybe Dad did it,” Floyd Bledsoe said.
“That’s not true,” she said.
Unlike his two sons, Floyd L. Bledsoe, 55, has never been charged in the case. Arfmann’s body was found on Floyd L. Bledsoe’s land buried beneath trash and plywood.
Catherine Bledsoe was one of the final prosecution witnesses called.
Though prosecutors summoned 28 witnesses, they produced only one whose testimony directly linked Floyd S. Bledsoe to Camille Arfmann’s November slaying. That was Tom Bledsoe, Floyd’s brother, the man defense lawyers say actually killed the girl.
Both sides agree Arfmann was shot with Tom Bledsoe’s pistol. Police originally charged Tom Bledsoe, 26, with the brutal murder that stunned this small town. A shot to the back of the head from a 9 mm pistol killed Arfmann. But she also was shot three times in the chest.
Prosecutors say Floyd S. Bledsoe took the gun from Tom’s pickup truck to kill Arfmann before returning it to its keeping place behind the truck seat. Tom then supposedly put the pistol in a drawer in his bedroom. His father turned the weapon over to police when Tom surrendered.
The prosecution case seems to rest on three assertions:
- That Arfmann, who lived with Floyd S. Bledsoe and Heidi Bledsoe, her sister, told a friend from church that she didn’t like to be alone with Floyd and that he “had hit on her.”
- That Floyd, who worked at a dairy, left work to run an errand about the same time Arfmann disappeared — and didn’t return to his job for more than an hour, much longer than the errand required.
- That Floyd confessed to his brother, Tom, that he had killed Arfmann, then blackmailed Tom into taking the blame. Tom is the sole witness to that alleged confession.
Defense attorney John Kurth has defended mainly against the last two assertions. He presented evidence that his client lacked time to kill Arfmann. He attacked Tom Bledsoe’s credibility.
Kurth also said his client searched for Arfmann after she was reported missing Nov. 6 and was concerned for her welfare.
But Jefferson County Sheriff Roy Dunnaway testified Wednesday that Bledsoe acted strangely during the search for Arfmann.
“Floyd asked me, ‘She’s dead, isn’t she?'” Dunnaway said. “I said, ‘I don’t know that she’s dead. She’s a runaway.'”
“Most people,” Dunnaway said, “put those thoughts out of their mind. It was unusual to me.”
During Kurth’s cross-examination, Dunnaway said his investigators never found physical evidence linking Floyd S. Bledsoe to the death of Arfmann.
The gun and shell casings were displayed to jurors Monday. Wednesday, they were shown the forensic evidence. But the autopsy report and other evidence offered explanation only as to what happened to Arfmann — not who did it to her.
Dr. Erik Mitchell, the Shawnee County coroner, testified Arfmann was shot once in the back of the head and three times in the chest.
The head shot, he said, was point-blank.
“You can see the outline of the barrel on the back of her neck,” he said. “It was against the skin surface when the gun was discharged.”
Arfmann’s body was found with her shirt and bra pushed up, exposing her breasts. Mitchell said that, although the body had injuries indicating she had been dragged, it would take a deliberate act to lift the clothing.
“They’d have to grab the clothing and pull it up,” he said. “It’s usually what we see in somebody trying to move clothing, not the body.”
There was no other evidence that Arfmann was sexually assaulted, Mitchell said.
More physical evidence came from Jim Woods, a senior special agent with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. He said tests showed the bullets fired at Arfmann’s chest, recovered from the ground beneath her, came from Tom Bledsoe’s pistol.
The prosecution never explained how or when Floyd S. Bledsoe might have taken, then returned, the gun.
Tom Bledsoe returned to the stand Wednesday to explain why he initially confessed to killing Arfmann before recanting and accusing his brother. He said his brother blackmailed him, threatening to reveal that Tom Bledsoe once attempted sex with a dog.
He said his brother had caught him with pornographic magazines and videotapes and had previously forced Tom Bledsoe to do his bidding with threats of revealing the indiscretions to church and family members.
The trial resumes today with testimony from defense witnesses. It is expected to conclude Friday.
Timeline: Floyd Bledsoe murder conviction overturned
● May 29, 2016 — Lawsuit filed by wrongfully convicted man details how law enforcement officials allegedly framed him
● May 21, 2016 — Floyd Bledsoe, wrongfully imprisoned for 15 years, pushes to end death penalty in Kansas
● May 10, 2016 — Floyd Bledsoe, wrongfully imprisoned for 15 years, says he was ‘framed,’ files lawsuit against Kansas justice officials
● Feb. 12, 2016 — Wrongfully convicted Floyd Bledsoe seeks videotaped interrogations in Kansas
● Feb. 8, 2016 — Kansas bill would allow $235K for wrongfully convicted man who spent 15 years in prison
● Jan. 18, 2016 — Jefferson County attorney doesn’t expect further action against former sheriff, others involved in wrongful murder conviction
● Jan. 17, 2016 — Bledsoe case spurs measure to allow compensation for wrongful convictions
● Jan. 10, 2016 — Requiring that police interrogations be recorded might have prevented tragedy of wrongful conviction
● Dec. 30, 2015 — ‘Who are you going to tell?’ — Floyd Bledsoe, wrongfully convicted of murder, discusses pain of prison, journey to forgiveness
● Dec. 27, 2015 — 1999 Oskaloosa murder case reopened; possibility that killer ‘had assistance’
● Dec. 13, 2015 — Web of lies, indifference to justice led to wrong Kansas brother being imprisoned for more than 15 years
● Dec. 13, 2015 — Kansas has no law on payouts for wrongly incarcerated prisoners
● Dec. 8, 2015 — Judge throws out 2000 murder conviction, frees Oskaloosa man after 15 years in prison
● Nov. 13, 2015 — Original suspect in girl’s murder dies of apparent suicide as case about to be revisited
● Oct. 21, 2015 — KU Project for Innocence, Midwest Innocence Project seeks to free convicted murderer with DNA evidence
● July 8, 2012 — Objection to DNA testing not likely
● June 20, 2012 — Motion seeks DNA testing in 1999 murder of teen
● Sept. 30, 2009 — Further appeals limited in Bledsoe case
● July 5, 2009 — 1999 murder case won’t settle
● June 28, 2009 — Federal court reverses release in murder case
● Oct. 7, 2008 — Floyd Bledsoe, sentenced to life for murder of teen sister-in-law, set free; ineffective assistance of counsel cited
● Feb. 3, 2007 — Court upholds murder conviction
● Feb. 2, 2002 — Murder conviction is upheld
● Dec. 5, 2001 — Attorneys appeal conviction of teen-ager’s murderer
● Dec. 2, 2001 — Oskaloosa murder case to be heard
● July 15, 2000 — Victim’s family unsure justice was served
● July 15, 2000 — Bledsoe gets life
● July 14, 2000 — Bledsoe sentenced to life in prison
● June 23, 2000 — Bledsoe sentencing delayed
● May 31, 2000 — Lawyer: Mother’s story changes
● April 30, 2000 — Minister supports Bledsoe in spirit
● April 28, 2000 — Bledsoe found guilty
● April 28, 2000 — Bledsoe murder case goes to jury
● April 27, 2000 — Bledsoe charges amended
● April 27, 2000 — Bledsoe prosecution rests
● April 27, 2000 — Bledsoe murder trial wrapping up
● April 26, 2000 — Tom Bledsoe seeks to explain lies
● April 26, 2000 — Bledsoe told his mother he didn’t kill Arfmann
● April 25, 2000 — Pool of potential jurors knows all about case
● April 25 2000 — Trial starts in murder of girl, 14
● April 24, 2000 — Murder trial to begin today
● Dec. 10, 1999 — Family of victim tries to cope with pain, loss
● Dec. 10, 1999 — Murder suspect enters innocent plea
● Dec. 9, 1999 — Murder suspect to be arraigned
● Nov. 30, 1999 — Case pits brother vs. brother
● Nov. 18, 1999 — Friends relieved charges were dismissed against Oskaloosa man
● Nov. 16, 1999 — Wife proclaims husband’s innocence in girl’s death
● Nov. 14, 1999 — In-law jailed in slaying of teen-ager
● Nov. 14, 1999 — Family, friends mourn Camille
● Nov. 10, 1999 — Quiet hearing for defendant charged with girl’s slaying
● Nov. 10, 1999 — Bledsoe recieves murder charge
● Nov. 9, 1999 — Police hold relative of slain girl
● Nov. 9, 1999 — Girl’s death leaves family, children with questions