Archive for Friday, April 28, 2000

Bledsoe murder case goes to jury

April 28, 2000

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— Did Floyd S. Bledsoe have time to kill?

Jurors were asked to consider competing timelines Thursday while deciding whether Bledsoe shot his 14-year-old sister-in-law in the back of the head with a 9 mm pistol last November.

"Floyd did it," Jefferson County Atty. Jim Vanderbilt told jurors in closing statements.

Prosecutors say Bledsoe, 23, was absent from his job at key times Nov. 5, the day Camille Arfmann disappeared and when a girl's screams were heard near the dairy where he worked.

But defense attorney John Kurth told jurors Bledsoe, at best, had 15 free minutes here and there that day; too little time for kidnap and murder.

"That's not reasonable doubt" that Bledsoe killed the girl, Kurth said. "That's all doubt."

Bledsoe is charged with felony counts of first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated indecent liberties with a child in the death of Arfmann, whose body was found Nov. 8 buried in a ditch northwest of Oskaloosa. In addition, Judge Gary Nafziger allowed an amended charge of felony murder.

After hearing competing theories from defense and prosecution lawyers, the jury -- eight men and four women, most in their 30s and 40s -- began deliberating the charges against Bledsoe.

At 2:10 p.m., jurors were sequestered in a conference room across the hall from the courtroom. They paused twice, once to ask a question of Nafziger, again to tell him they wanted to go home for the evening after two-and-a-half cloistered hours.

"Are you making progress in your deliberations?" the judge asked.

"Some," replied the presiding juror. "But we have a lot of issues."

They are to resume deliberations at 9 a.m. today.

The jurors, who had sat through four days of testimony, appeared very attentive during Thursday's closing arguments.

Vanderbilt's statement was as much defense of Tom Bledsoe as it was indictment of Floyd Bledsoe.

Tom Bledsoe, 26, was the only witness in the case to directly link his brother Floyd to the killing. Tom was charged with the murder until he recanted his confession and accused Floyd.

Police say it was Tom Bledsoe's gun that killed Arfmann. Tom Bledsoe took investigators to the body.

"One of two things happened, ladies and gentlemen," Vanderbilt said in his closing statement. "Either (Tom) put her there, or Floyd did."

Timing, he said, narrowed it to Floyd Bledsoe. Tom Bledsoe was in Lawrence when Arfmann disappeared.

Floyd Bledsoe "is the only one who had the opportunity to get it all done," Vanderbilt said.

But Kurth said that was not so.

Arfmann "deserves some justice, but it needs to be the right person," the defense attorney said. "We've got the wrong person."

He said there was evidence Tom could have been in Oskaloosa instead of Lawrence the day of the murder.

That, the gun, and the confession made Tom Bledsoe the more likely killer, Kurth said.

"The reason he knew where the body was, was because he put her in there," Kurth said.

When he discovered the unpleasantness of jail, Kurth said, Tom Bledsoe decided to accuse his brother.

"Tom is nothing but a liar and he lied to get out of jail," Kurth said.

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