KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas man who spent 15 years in prison for a rape and murder to which his brother confessed several times, including in suicide notes, filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday alleging he was framed by investigators, prosecutors and his brother's attorney.
Floyd Bledsoe, 39, was convicted of raping and killing 14-year-old Camille Arfmann, who disappeared from Bledsoe's Oskaloosa, Kansas, home on Nov. 5, 1999. He was sentenced to life in prison for a crime he steadfastly denied committing.
"Floyd has had to live with the effects of being branded a murder, a rapist, a pedophile, being ripped from his family, being taken from his two young sons and placed into a world of violence," his attorney, Russell Ainsworth, said during news conference Tuesday.
The lawsuit alleges that prosecutors pursued the case even though Bledsoe's brother, Tom, confessed to multiple people — including Jefferson County sheriff's deputies — that he was responsible for the girl's death. None of those confessions is mentioned in the 37-page case report, nor is there an explanation for why authorities released Tom Bledsoe from custody and arrested Floyd Bledsoe for Camille's death, Ainsworth said.
"November 12th, 1:30 in the afternoon was the last time I saw my two young children for 16 years," Floyd Bledsoe added. "It's days like that that are always burned into your mind. It's stuff like that that always sticks."
Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he hadn't seen the lawsuit and wasn't in a position to comment on it. His office is among more than a dozen defendants in the lawsuit, including the prosecutor who pursued the case.
Floyd Bledsoe was freed in December, after DNA testing showed that evidence implicated his brother in the case. Tom Bledsoe killed himself after the DNA results were released, and left several notes confessing to the crimes.
"I tried telling the truth but no one would listen," Tom Bledsoe wrote in one note, according to the lawsuit and previous courtroom testimony. "I was told to keep my mouth shut. It tore me up doing it."
Two days after the girl's disappearance, Tom Bledsoe drove to the Jefferson County Law Enforcement Center and made three calls while sitting in the parking lot confessing to the girl's death. Two of the calls were to his Sunday school teacher and one was to his parents, according to the lawsuit.
Tom Bledsoe and his lawyer met with sheriff's deputies that night, when he confessed to killing the girl and said he knew where her body was buried, the lawsuit alleges. He then led investigators to his parents' property, where the girl was found buried, and later turned over the recently purchased handgun that was used to kill her.
Ainsworth said Tom Bledsoe's attorney, who couldn't be reached for comment by the AP on Tuesday, helped concoct the story his client eventually told investigators implicating his brother.
The suit is an attempt to find out why investigators wanted to pin the crimes on Floyd Bledsoe, who was 23 at the time and the father of two young sons, and to hold those people accountable, Ainsworth said. Tom Bledsoe, who was 25 at the time, had a limited social life and "certain intellectual limitations," according to the lawsuit.
Kansas has no law setting forth the monetary value of lost time for the wrongly convicted. The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.