Motion seeks DNA testing in 1999 murder of teen

At his sentencing for the November 1999 murder of his sister-in-law, Camille Arfmann, Floyd S. Bledsoe, 23, gestures toward his wife, sister of his victim. Bledsoe was sentenced Friday in the Jefferson County Courthouse in Oskaloosa to life in prison for the crime.

Wearing a button bearing the image of her slain daughter, Tommie Sue Arfmann meets with the media at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Oskaloosa. Floyd S. Bledsoe was sentenced to life in prison for the November 1999 murder of his 14-year-old sister-in-law, Camille Arfmann.

After more than a decade of failed legal battles, a motion to test DNA evidence in the 1999 shooting death of an Oskaloosa teenager has given convicted murderer Floyd Bledsoe and his attorneys new hope.

“We never dropped the case,” said Alice White, an attorney with the Kansas University Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies.

The Project for Innocence has been working for years to free Bledsoe, 35, who maintains his innocence in the shooting death, kidnapping and sexual assault of his 14-year-old sister-in-law, Zetta “Camille” Arfmann.

Bledsoe is serving a life sentence at Lansing Correctional Facility.

This week, the Project for Innocence filed a motion in Jefferson County to test DNA evidence in the case.

Bledsoe’s brother, Tom Bledsoe, was originally arrested and charged with killing Arfmann, who was shot three times in the chest and once in the back of the head. Tom led investigators to the body, confessed to the crime and provided police with his gun that was used in the murder.

However, after several days in jail, Tom recanted and implicated his brother, Floyd. Arfmann was found buried in a shallow grave on the Oskaloosa property of Floyd’s parents, where Tom lived at the time.

There are several pieces of evidence that could be tested, such as Arfmann’s clothing found at the scene, according to Elizabeth Cateforis, one of Bledsoe’s attorneys with the Project for Innocence.

“There’s a lot of stuff we’re hoping to try,” she said.

At trial, no DNA evidence was presented, and subsequent testing requested by Bledsoe’s attorneys on appeal did not yield useful results. However, testing using today’s technology could potentially produce a DNA profile, Cateforis said.

Prosecutors have the option of contesting or consenting to the motion, but Cateforis said they expect that the motion ultimately will be granted.

The motion is just the latest in more than a decade of legal maneuvers in the case. In 2008, a U.S. District Court ruled that Bledsoe should be freed from prison because he was denied his constitutional right to effective counsel.

But following an appeal by the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, the higher court reversed the decision, returning Bledsoe to prison.