Floyd Bledsoe: from inmate to a mandate for change

After being falsely accused of a murder he did not commit nearly two decades ago, the question still remains; could he have been a better brother?


Persephone Means

Floyd Scott Bledsoe

Allie Utley, Staff Writer

It was Friday, November 5, 1999, when Camille Arfmann, 14, of Oskaloosa, Kansas, stepped off the school bus never to be seen alive again. In a matter of hours she would be dead, and her brother-in-law, Floyd Scott Bledsoe, would be convicted of her murder.

Bledsoe came to the Iola High School in conjunction with Iola Reads and the newest community book, “Getting Life,” by Michael Morton. Bledsoe, similar to Morton, were both sentenced to life in prison, for a crime neither had committed. Bledsoe spoke to various students of Iola High School, Allen Community College, and later at a public presentation of his story.  

Arfmann had been shot four times in the back of her skull and her body had been hid beneath bags of garbage somewhere on the Bledsoe family farm. Then the question arose; who had killed Camille Arfmann?

It is known that Tom Bledsoe, brother of Floyd Scott Bledsoe, went to the police station the Sunday after the murder and made three phone calls; one to his parents, the other two to his pastor, concluding that he was going to turn himself in. His father, Floyd Laverne Bledsoe, told him to stay there and that he was going to get him an attorney.

   “I didn’t realize I was a suspect until really the Thursday after. They wouldn’t let me go [from the sheriff’s office]. I wasn’t technically ‘arrested,’ they just wouldn’t let me leave the cell that they put me in,” Floyd Scott commented.

Persephone Means
“Don’t ever judge a matter before you hear it and find out the facts for yourself, don’t jump to conclusions. Just because somebody says something, investigate it for yourself. You’re in charge, you get to make your own decisions. Don’t just go with the flow. Investigate it, look at it for yourself. Don’t take stuff for granted. Just because somebody said it, doesn’t make it true. Rumors get started with just a small tidbit of truth and blows up to almost complete lies,” Floyd Scott says.

Tom and Floyd Scott were both polygraphed, and to Tom’s avail, according to the first KBI agent, Tom had passed and Floyd Scott had failed. After this, Floyd Scott says everyone acquired “tunnel vision.”  

“Part of the problem with science is that people believe that science is always accurate and absolute. There is a question on whether polygraphs are accurate anyway, which is why they are not admissible in court. I have no explanation for George Johnson’s [the original polygrapher] behavior. When we had a KBI agent take a look at the original results a year ago, when we were in the process of going through this, they read it and said that when Tom was asked, ‘Did you kill Camille?’ Tom failed it in ‘spectacular fashion,’ so I’m not quite sure how they concluded he passed. I’m not going to say it’s malicious. I’m just going to say it was human error,” Jean Phillips, director of The Innocence Project says.

On November 13, 1999, Floyd Scott Bledsoe was convicted under the charges of 1st-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated indecent liberties with a child. Floyd Scott, along with the Project Innocence team, now argues that there was no substantial evidence for Bledsoe to be convicted. Under the idealization of Tom’s allegations, the Bledsoe’s parents corroboration, law enforcement’s tunnel vision, and a brief remark of Floyd Scott’s two-year-old son saying, “Daddy killed Camille,” months after the incident, Bledsoe was sentenced to life in prison.

“When you first get to prison you hate the walls. Then, you learn to accept them, and eventually, you learn to depend on them,” Floyd Scott commented during his presentation.

While in prison, Floyd Scott began working with Jean Phillips and The Innocence Project, a team designed to provide legal assistance to incarcerated persons in the state in a variety of forms. Generally, the team, along with 16 to 22 students of the University of Kansas review convictions and bring forth the variety of problems during the case. The mission, director Phillips says, is to provide services to inmates who otherwise would not have had access to legal council.

“Individuals will write to us and sometimes their attorneys will refer them to us. We have an attorney in the office who does a screening and we gather some additional documents. We have an application process that asks them a few questions, there are some procedural hurdles that have to be overcome they have to have gotten to us within a particular time frame, their statute of limitations, and once that individual has passed through the screening process, they are assigned to students, and students do all the work,” Phillips says.

Persephone Means
Jean Phillips, director of the Project Innocence, talks to IHS students about the Bledsoe VS the state of Kansas case.

Years after the team and Bledsoe began collaborating, one student had told Phillips about a new form of touch DNA, where scientists would scrape the remaining DNA off clothing of the individual. Once the results were returned, it revealed that 1/10 sextillion that Floyd Laverne [father to Tom and Floyd Scott] had touched the back of Camille’s left sock, and Tom Bledsoe’s DNA was found 1/300 on another part of her body, revealing that Floyd Laverne was a vital role in the covering up of Tom’s doing.

Only days after those DNA tests were returned, Tom Bledsoe was found dead in a Walmart parking lot, leaving behind multiple confession letters finally divulging the truth about the murder that had sent his brother to prison.

“One of the things I learned while in prison was what true forgiveness is, and what it’s not. I discovered the difference is, just because I’ve forgiven you, doesn’t mean you get to walk around free. It sets me free and allows me to rebuild my life back before the events actually happened,” Floyd Scott commented.

On November 8, 2015, at 3:45 in the afternoon, Floyd Scott Bledsoe walked out of Jefferson County Courthouse a free man. Since then, Floyd Scott has been remarried, formed a relationship with both his children, has become an activist for the Innocence Project, as well as becoming a voice for the anti-death penalty movement

“What I went through, I don’t want anyone else to go through. That’s why I do what I do today. I want to be the voice for those people who can’t speak,” Floyd Scott says. “I’m against the death penalty because, in a system where you have judges who, my trial judge for example, at the close of the state’s arguments he said ‘I see no evidence to support this’ [because the county attorney wanted to amend the charges] and then he wouldn’t overturn the verdict, even though he said that. And the Kansas supreme court quoted him as saying that, and they found no fault with him for saying he saw no evidence but didn’t overturn it. To the Kansas supreme court, saying that the prosecutor made ‘troubling and disturbing remarks,’ but they wouldn’t overturn the conviction. Anytime we have a fallible justice system, we can’t have a death penalty, because there is no appealing when you kill somebody. If you read Justin Wingerter’s “Four Shot’s In Oskie” he interviews the jury member [from the Bledsoe case] and [jury member] says ‘Oops, I guess we made a mistake.’ Sixteen years? A mistake? When they said that they didn’t know who did it, but this was their chance to make somebody pay… Not the right person, but somebody. So under that ideology, anybody in this country could’ve been the person that they deemed responsible. And where that type of stuff goes on, we shouldn’t have a death penalty. What’s one life worth?

When asked if Floyd Scott had any resentment towards his brother, he responded by saying, “I still remember Tom when we were kids and stuff like that. And there’s times where I ask myself, ‘Could I have done things differently to change his life, to help him from making the actions that he did later on?’ Could I have been a better brother? Sure. Is it my responsibility? No. But it is an essence because in every life no person is alone. Every person we touch touches other lives, and it’s got that ripple effect. And for some people, we only get one opportunity to change their life, so is it going to be for the better or for the worse.”