Floyd Bledsoe, a well-known Kansas exoneree who recently won his freedom, filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday, May 10. He was exonerated in December after spending 15 years in prison for a 1999 rape and murder that he did not commit. Despite his repeated denials of committing the crime and several pieces of evidence implicating his brother as the perpetrator, Bledsoe was sentenced to life in prison.
Tom, Bledsoe’s brother, confessed to the crime several times to multiple people. According to the lawsuit, he drove to the Jefferson County Law Enforcement Center two days after Arfmann’s disappearance and made two calls to his Sunday school teacher and one to his parents confessing to the killing from the center’s parking lot. That night, Tom met with his lawyer and sheriff’s deputies and confessed to the crime, telling them that he knew where the victim’s body was buried. Investigators were then led to his parents’ property, where her body was found. Tom later turned over a handgun that he had recently purchased and used to kill Arfmann.
Bledsoe was finally exonerated after DNA evidence was tested, revealing that his brother was involved in the crime. Following the release of those results, Tom killed himself and left several suicide notes confessing to the crimes against Arfmann. In one, he wrote that no one would listen when he tried telling the truth, and that he was told to keep his mouth shut, which tore him up. According to Bledsoe’s attorney, Russell Ainsworth, Tom’s lawyer helped him form the story implicating his brother that he later told to investigators.
The federal lawsuit alleges that investigators, prosecutors, and Tom’s attorney framed Bledsoe, and that prosecutors pursued the case despite his brother’s numerous confessions. According to Ainsworth, none of those confessions or an explanation for why Tom was released from custody and why Bledsoe was instead arrested for the crime was included in the 37-page case report. There are more than a dozen defendants in the lawsuit, including the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the prosecutor that pursued the case.
According to Ainsworth, the lawsuit also aims to determine why investigators wanted to pin the crime on the 23-year-old father of two young sons and to hold them accountable. The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as Kansas currently has no law regarding financial compensation for the wrongfully convicted.