Former UI researcher charged in wife's 1997 slaying
November 27, 2013
Iowa City, Iowa
Investigators arrested a former University of Iowa researcher on Tuesday in connection with the 1997 strangulation death of his wife, whom he had reported missing after returning home from a business trip.
Officers arrested John Richard Bloomfield at his home in St. Paul, Minn., on a warrant charging him with first-degree murder in the death of 57-year-old Frances Bloomfield. He was being held in custody at the Ramsey County Jail awaiting a hearing on whether he will be extradited to Iowa to face the charge.
Iowa City Det. David Gonzalez alleges in a criminal complaint that John Bloomfield, now 73, killed his wife on Sept. 20, 1997 at their home. They had moved to Iowa City from Minneapolis three years earlier when John Bloomfield left his job at Honeywell to work at the university's Center for Computer-Aided Design. They were originally from England.
John Bloomfield called 911 on Sept. 22, 1997 claiming that he had just returned from a conference in Paris to find his wife and her Honda Accord missing, and that their home had been burglarized. Blood spots also were found in the home.
Later that day, a motorist found Frances Bloomfield's body in a roadside ditch near Rockford, Ill., about 180 miles from the home. Her body was wrapped in plastic and her feet and hands were bound with ligatures. After an autopsy, a coroner ruled that she died of strangulation and had been dead for up to two days before her body was found. Two months later, investigators found her car in a long-term parking lot at Newark International Airport. It was missing its license plates.
Sgt. Vicki Lalla, an Iowa City police spokeswoman, said advances in DNA analysis contributed to the break that led to Tuesday's arrest.
The complaint says that a forensic analysis of one of the ligatures used to bind Frances Bloomfield's body revealed DNA from a male source. After additional testing, investigators were able to determine that the DNA's Y chromosome profile was consistent with John Bloomfield's. Investigators also determined that a hair found on tape that was on Frances Bloomfield's body was found to be "microscopically similar to the defendant's hair," it says.
Leon Spies, an Iowa City attorney who said he has represented John Bloomfield in the past, said he was gathering information about the arrest. He declined to immediately comment on the allegations.
The complaint suggests that investigators will build their case using circumstantial evidence. Bloomfield claimed he was in the Chicago area when his wife was killed, but Gonzalez alleges in the complaint that Bloomfield would have had enough time to drive home and kill his wife during a period in which investigators couldn't account for Bloomfield's whereabouts. He has given "inconsistent accounts of the time leading up to the murder and his discovery that his wife was missing," Gonzalez wrote.
News of the arrest stunned Rachel Schwandt, who lived across the street from the Bloomfields in Minneapolis and recalls them as a loving couple who had two sons and who often walked their dog together. She remembers attending Frances Bloomfield's funeral, where mourners played one of her favorite Beatles songs and John Bloomfield seemed devastated by her death.
Schwandt remembered John Bloomfield as bright and said he often traveled on business. She said his wife had a great sense of humor and worked for years at the Courage Center in Minneapolis, which serves people with disabilities.
Schwandt said she never stopped thinking about Frances' unsolved killing and could never understand why someone would want her dead.
"She was a lovely person, just a lovely person. She was British and we loved her accent," she said. "There's nothing suspicious in my mind about them. They are a lovely couple. That's why this is so hard to take."
John Bloomfield left the University of Iowa's employment in June 1998, school spokesman Tom Moore said.
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