Archive for Thursday, April 27, 2000

Bledsoe prosecution rests

April 27, 2000

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— 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.

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