Motion seeks DNA testing in 1999 murder of teen

photo by: Earl Richardson/Journal-World Photo

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.

photo by: Earl Richardson/J-W Photo

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.

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