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Dec. 10, 2014 — Prosecutors have formally closed the case against John Bloomfield, the husband accused of murdering his wife in Iowa City in the 1990s, after his recent death while he awaited trial.
Prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss the case last week because of Bloomfield’s death in November, and the court officially issued the dismissal order Friday.
This closes the latest and perhaps final chapter on the vexing cold case that grew hot again this past year when police, using new DNA evidence, arrested Bloomfield in December 2013 at his St. Paul, Minn., home. Bloomfield died in November of cardiac arrest after checking himself into a Minneapolis hospital, according to his lawyer.
John Bloomfield, 74, who was scheduled to stand trial Jan. 27, 2015, in Johnson County District Court for the September 1997 murder of his wife, Frances Bloomfield, 57, has died.
According to a Des Moines Register article published Nov. 10, 2014, Bloomfield died Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014 at Fairview Riverside Hospital in Minneapolis.
“It is regrettable; we were very much hoping he would be brought to justice for the death of his wife, Frances Bloomfield,” Assistant Johnson County Attorney Anne Lahey told the Register. “He’s obviously now beyond the reach of our justice system.”
November 4, 2014 | By Lee Hermiston, The Gazette
IOWA CITY — The attorney for a former Iowa City man accused of killing his wife in 1997 is seeking to get the case dismissed, arguing the 17 years that have passed since the crime and his client’s own failing health will hinder the defense’s efforts.
Iowa City attorney Leon Spies said he filed the motion to dismiss for his client, 74-year-old John Bloomfield, “based primarily on the passage of time, the dimming of memories and — most significantly — the deteriorating health of Mr. Bloomfield.”
John Bloomfield’s first-degree murder trial has been postponed until 2015, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported on July 11, 2014.
The jury trial for Bloomfield, 73, has been rescheduled to begin Jan. 27, 2015, with his pretrial conference slated for Jan. 16, 2015.
Bloomfield was arrested at his St. Paul, Minn. home Nov. 26, 2013 and charged with first-degree murder in his wife’s 1997 death.
Bloomfield’s attorney Leon Spies said his client’s health was declining due to lack of sleep while staying at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center prison in Coralville, and on March 18, 2014, Johnson County District Judge Paul Miller said in a written order that Bloomfield could live under strict monitoring at his Minnesota home until his trial.
Bloomfield was released from custody April 3, 2014 and allowed to leave the state to return to his Minnesota home.
Spies had boasted his client’s release could be the first for a person charged with first-degree murder.
Spies was one of three lawyers who defended Dustin Honken, the first Iowan to receive the death penalty in more than 40 years. Honken was sentenced to death on Oct. 11, 2005 for five murders: the execution-style slayings of two former dealers turned federal informants, as well as the girlfriend of one of the informants along with her two young daughters, ages 6 and 10.
John Richard Bloomfield, 73, was arrested at his St. Paul, Minn. home Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, and charged with first-degree murder in his wife’s 1997 death.
The former University of Iowa researcher entered a not guilty plea in writing on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. The filing waived his right to an in-person arraignment hearing, which had been scheduled for Friday, Jan. 3.
According to a Gazette article published June 3, 2014, Leon Spies, Bloomfield’s attorney, filed an unresisted motion on Friday, May 31, 2014, seeking to continue his client’s trial and pretrial conference based on the amount of work yet to be completed in trial preparations. Bloomfield’s current pretrial conference is scheduled for June 27 and his trial scheduled for July 8.
Authorities believe John Bloomfield strangled his wife on Sept. 20, 1997, in the couple’s 38 Wakefield Court home in Iowa City. Bloomfield told officials he’d just returned home from a business conference in France and that he’d been in the Chicago area during the time his wife was killed. He reported her missing Sept. 22, 1997.
Police said Bloomfield was unable to account for his whereabouts for a length of time that would have been sufficient to drive to Iowa City and commit the murder.
DNA and hair evidence eventually linked him to the 1997 murder.
Bloomfield waived his right in Ramsey County District Court to fight extradition to Iowa, and made his first court appearance Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, in Johnson County District Court via a video feed from the Johnson County Jail.
Judge Stephen Gerard set bail at $1 million and spelled out the charge: First-degree murder, a class A felony punishable by life in prison.
According to a criminal complaint filed by Iowa City Police Detective Dave Gonzalez, a forensic analysis of one of the ligatures used to bind Frances Bloomfield’s body contained DNA evidence — a Y chromosome profile — that matched John Bloomfield’s DNA. A hair found stuck to duct tape used to wrap the body in plastic also matched that of Mr. Bloomfield.
Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine credited Det. Dave Gonzalez’s “relentless” work for helping to solve the crime.
On Tuesday, March 18, 2014, Johnson County District Judge Paul Miller said in a written order that John Bloomfield could live under strict monitoring at his Minnesota home until his trial.
Bloomfield was released Thursday, April 3, 2014, and returned to his Minnesota home.
Bloomfield’s attorney, Leon Spies, said his client’s release could be the first for a person charged with first-degree murder.
Spies was one of three lawyers who defended Dustin Honken, the first Iowan to receive the death penalty in more than 40 years. Honken, one of the Midwest’s early, large-scale producers of methamphetamine, was sentenced to death on Oct. 11, 2005 for five murders: the execution-style slayings of two former dealers turned federal informants, as well as the girlfriend of one of the informants along with her two young daughters, ages 6 and 10.
Read More about the Arrest and Charges:
Frances Bloomfield, 57, was reported missing from her Iowa City home on Monday, September 22, 1997, by her husband, John Bloomfield, who had just returned home from a business conference in France.
John Bloomfield — a researcher at the University of Iowa’s Center for Computer-Aided Design — made a 911 call at 6:32 a.m. telling Iowa City police his wife was missing and that there were several areas in the home spotted and pooled with blood.
Also missing was Frances’ red 1994 Honda Accord with Iowa sesquicentennial license plate number SO51154.
Around 5 p.m. that same day, Bloomfield’s body was found in a ditch along a highway about a half-mile south of Rockford, Ill. Her hands and feet had been tied with rope and she’d been wrapped in two large black trash bags secured with duct tape.
Officials ruled cause of death as strangulation by ligature; someone used a cord or similar device to strangle Bloomfield after she’d fought a bloody battle for her life.
Detectives found bloodstains in 38 Wakefield Court home in Iowa City as well as on the floor of the attached garage. They believe Bloomfield the killer or killers strangled Bloomfield at her home and then dumped her body 177 miles away in the Rockford ditch.
According to a Cedar Rapids Gazette article dated September 26, 1997, Bloomfield was found dressed in faded blue jeans and a sweater over a shirt. She wore two rings on her left ring finger, two necklaces, and hoop earrings, said Winnebago County (Ill.) Sheriff Richard Meyers.
Winnebago County coroner Sue Fiduccia said Bloomfield had been dead about two days, and that she’d found nothing indicating the Iowa City woman had been sexually assaulted.
Fiduccia said there were other signs of trauma to Bloomfield’s body, but declined to discuss specifics.
Toxicology tests revealed no drugs or chemicals in Bloomfield’s system.
Authorities couldn’t pinpoint exactly how long Bloomfield’s body lay in the ditch, but Meyers said it couldn’t have been very long; it had rained on Sunday, he said, and there was no evidence of rain on the garbage bags containing Bloomfield’s body.
Tom Reichert, who lived a quarter-mile from where the body was found, said he’d driven by the site Monday around 3:30 p.m. but hadn’t seen anything in the ditch. He believed someone placed the body there sometime between 3:30 and 5 p.m.
Meyers said an unidentified motorist — who asked to not be identified — said he found the body when he stopped to check his engine.
Reichert told the Gazette that Simpson Road is close to Highway 20, a major thoroughfare between Dubuque and Rockford. Highway 20 turns into Interstate 90 and leads into Chicago. The body, Reichert said, was found about halfway along an eight-tenths-of-a-mile stretch where there are no houses.
Neighbors told officials they last saw Bloomfield outside her home Saturday afternoon, Sept. 20, between 5:30 and 6 p.m. The Bloomfields had moved from Minneapolis to Iowa City in 1995 after John left his job with the Honeywell Corp. and accepted a position with the University of Iowa. English natives, the couple had lived in the U.S. since 1972.
According to a Daily Iowan story published Nov. 25, 1997, a search warrant on Bloomfield’s home turned up several evidentiary items, including:
Other items seized included 30 pairs of pantyhose, 15 duct tape samples, plastic bags, linens, and a book titled “How to Get Out of Debt and Stay Out of Debt.”
The Daily Iowan’s Steven Cook wrote:
Locations of stains found by police in the home included an upstairs bedroom, a wall at the bottom of the stairs and two stains in the garage. Also, a “drag mark” with a stain was found in an upstairs hallway.
John Bloomfield filed expense vouchers with Univ. of Iowa stating he was in France from Sept. 13 through Sept. 19, and said that on September 21 he’d traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for another conference but returned home early because of a family emergency.
According to the search warrant, however, Frances Bloomfield had made arrangements for John to call her Sept. 20 when he returned from his trip to France.
John Bloomfield allegedly told police that when he couldn’t reach his wife, he’d rented a car from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and returned home.
Investigators tried to piece together John Bloomfield’s actual whereabouts on specific dates while processing a crime scene that indeed took them east of Iowa; Frances Bloomfield’s car was found Nov. 25 in a New Jersey airport parking lot, more than 1,000 miles away from the Iowa crime scene.
Though its license plates were missing, officials confirmed the vehicle belonged to Bloomfield by the vehicle identification number processed through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computer network.
Iowa City police Sgt. Jim Steffen told the Daily Iowan that finding the vehicle was the most important part of the investigation.
Bill Cahill, a spokesperson for the New Jersey Port Authority, said Iowa police were conducting forensic tests on the vehicle.
A Gazette article dated Dec. 12, 1997, said Iowa City investigators took floor mats, a piece of plastic, hairs and a few other items from Frances Bloomfield’s car. According to the Gazette:
Investigators took the piece of plastic from the rear floor area as well, though documents do not indicate if it is the same kind of plastic in which Bloomfield was wrapped.
Hairs were seized from the console area of the vehicle and a card with instructions to use the car’s defogger was taken from the glove box. Investigators made prints of the tire tread and also lifted a white substance, unidentified in documents, from above the driver’s door.
The spare tire cover was taken from the trunk, according to the search warrant, and investigators vacuumed the front, rear and trunk areas of the car looking for evidence.
One year after Bloomfield’s murder, investigators said the case remained open but there was a possibility it may never be solved.
“At this time the statistics are against us in solving the case, but that doesn’t mean we will stop investigating,” said Dan Sellers, Iowa City Police Department investigations commander, in a Daily Iowan story published Sept. 22, 1998. Sellers said the department was reviewing the case file to make sure nothing got overlooked.
Detectives questioned John Bloomfield about the amount of time it took him to drive from Chicago (where he arrived from Paris) to his Iowa City home, as well as his whereabouts during the time of his wife’s murder.
“He is a suspect, but so is everyone else that we have spoken with in the past year,” Sellers told the Daily Iowan. “He has not been ruled out, but he hasn’t been charged with anything, either.”
John Bloomfield’s attorney, Leon Spies, said his client had been extremely cooperative with police.
In May 1999, the company that provided a $100,000 life insurance benefit to Frances Bloomfield asked the Johnson County District Court for permission to deposit the insurance proceeds with a court designee rather than directly with Bloomfield’s family and estate.
In a Gazette article dated May 11, 1999, Unum Life Insurance Co. of North America, based in Maine, stated it would subject itself to multiple and conflicting claims if it paid Frances Bloomfield’s primary beneficiary, John Bloomfield.
In its petition, Unum named John Bloomfield, the Bloomfields’ sons Stuart and James, and Frances Bloomfield’s estate, and asked that it be allowed to deposit the $100,000 with the clerk of court or with another court designee and be released from further obligation under the insurance policy.
In a petition filed May 10, 2001 in Johnson County District Court, Guardian Life stated that Bloomfield’s sons were her natural heirs. The petition also stated that John Bloomfield had filed for bankruptcy in a U.S. district court in Massachusetts.
On Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, John Richard Bloomfield was arrested in Minnesota and charged with his wife’s murder.
According to a press release from the Iowa City Police Department, the 73-year-old Bloomfield was living in St. Paul, Minn. at the time of the arrest. He was in custody in Minnesota awaiting extradition to Iowa City.
According to a Gazette article dated Nov. 26, 2013, detectives linked John Bloomfield to the homicide using a relatively new tool that analyzes only the Y chromosome portion of a DNA profile. The Gazette reported:
In the Bloomfield case, a Y chromosome profile pulled from one of the ligatures used to bind the victim’s body came back “consistent” with John Bloomfield’s Y chromosome, according to a criminal complaint. The complaint laid out additional evidence that led to his arrest – including a possible motive, lack of alibi, inconsistent stories and a hair located on tape from Francis Bloomfield’s body was found to be microscopically similar to her husband’s hair, according to police.
Bloomfield waived his right in Ramsey County District Court to fight extradition to Iowa, and was transported to Johnson County on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, where he was booked into the Johnson County Jail. He made his first court appearance Friday, Dec. 13, in Johnson County District Court via a video feed from the jail.
Judge Stephen Gerard set bail at $1 million and spelled out the charge: First-degree murder, a Class A felony punishable by life in prison.
Gerard set Bloomfield’s preliminary hearing for Dec. 23, 2013.
On Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, Bloomfield pleaded not guilty to killing his wife. By entering the plea in writing Thursday, Bloomfield waived his right to an in-person arraignment hearing, which had been scheduled for Friday, Jan. 3.
Bloomfield’s attorney, Leon Spies, said he would soon ask for a review of his client’s $1 million bond. He called Bloomfield’s health “precarious.”
During a hearing held in Johnson County District Court on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, Spies said Bloomfield should be released from detention pending trial due to his client’s illness.
According to court records published Tuesday, March 18, 2014, Spies said his client’s health was declining “due to lack of sleep” while staying at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center prison in Coralville.
On March 18, 2014, Johnson County District Judge Paul Miller said in a written order that Bloomfield could live under strict monitoring at his Minnesota home until his trial and approved the request to place Bloomfield under house arrest.
Bloomfield was released from custody on Thursday, April 3, 2014, and allowed to leave the state to return to his St. Paul, Minnesota home, the Des Moines Register reported on April 4, 2014. The paper also reported:
Bloomfield’s attorney, Leon Spies, said the release, which was granted in mid-March by Sixth Judicial District Judge Paul Miller, could be the first of a person charged with first-degree murder.
Bloomfield was required to surrender all passports to correction officials.
Assistant County Attorney Jude Pannell, who resisted Bloomfield’s request for release, said a person charged with first-degree murder has not been granted release in Johnson County at least as far back as 1997, when Bloomfield’s wife was killed, the Register reported.
The stipulations in Bloomfield’s release allow him to travel to and from medical appointments and court appearances, and even go grocery shopping. The Register said the travel is limited to Hennepin and Ramsey counties in Minnesota, and Bloomfield must give notice to authorities before any approved travel.
Spies filed an unresisted motion on Friday, May 30, 2014, seeking to continue his client’s trial and pretrial conference based on the amount of work yet to be completed in trial preparations.
According to a Gazette story published June 3, 2014, Bloomfield’s new pretrial conference was scheduled for June 27, 2014, and his trial scheduled for July 8, 2014.
Spies said in the Gazette report he’d spoken with Assistant Johnson County Attorney Anne Lahey and was informed the state wouldn’t resist the request. A scheduling conference to reset the trial was also requested.
On July 11, 2014, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported that Bloomfield’s first-degree murder trial had been postponed until 2015. The jury trial was rescheduled to begin Jan. 27, 2015, with Bloomfield’s pretrial conference slated for Jan. 16, 2015.
On Nov. 4, 2014, the Gazette reported that Spies was seeking to get the entire case tossed, arguing that the 17 years that had passed since the crime and his client’s own failing health would hinder the defense’s efforts.
Spies said he filed the “Motion to Dismiss” for his client “based primarily on the passage of time, the dimming of memories and — most significantly — the deteriorating health of Mr. Bloomfield.”
More than 16 years ago, Iowa City police Investigations Commander Dan Sellers had noted the possibility that Frances Bloomfield’s murder may never be solved.
At the time of the September 1998 Daily Iowan interview, neither Sellers nor other officials could have foreseen DNA’s technological advances and how the evidence they’d carefully collected and preserved would later tie John Bloomfield to the crime.
Lt. Dan Sellers — after a long and impressive career with the Iowa City Police Department — retired in March 2010.
It is a sad irony that despite investigators’ very best efforts and forensic evidence linking to her suspected killer, Spies’ attempts to get the case tossed have now become a moot point; John Bloomfield died in a Minnesota hospital on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014, and Frances Bloomfield’s murder will indeed go unsolved.
On Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, prosecutors announced they had formally closed the case against John Bloomfield. According to the Iowa City Press-Citizen, prosecutors had filed a motion the previous week to dismiss the case because of Bloomfield’s death in November.
While living in Minneapolis, Frances spent 15 years coordinating production at Courage Center, a greeting card manufacturer that helped rehabilitate people seriously injured in accidents. She did not work outside the home in Iowa City.
Memorial services were held simultaneously in Minneapolis and England on Thursday, Oct. 2, 1997, with interment in Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.
According to a Gazette article published Oct. 3, 1997 by writer Harvey T. Rockwood, the Minneapolis memorial service included music by the Beatles, W.H. Auden poetry, and music from the film soundtrack “Out of Africa.”
In addition to her husband and many friends from the Minneapolis area, Frances was survived by her two adult sons, Stuart and James, who lived outside of Iowa.
If you have any information about Frances Bloomfield’s murder, please contact the Iowa City Police Department at 319-356-5280.
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