Mystery of murder adds to grief

Friends seek closure to death of Iowa Citianc

NOTE: This story was originally published May 18, 1998.

"It's hard," says Gary Christopherson. "Just the other day I was talking to a mutual friend of ours, and I misspoke and said 'my friend Fran."'

Christopherson is operations manager for Courage Center, a Minneapolis charity that specializes in rehabilitating people injured in accidents. He worked with Frances Bloomfield, coordinating production of the center's popular Christmas cards created by disabled artists.

"We worked pretty close, and we knew each other before I even came to work here," Christopherson said.

Christopherson says Bloomfield's close friends in Minnesota are learning to deal with grief and unfocused anger left by her unsolved murder. Making peace with the experience can take years, say two women who lost family members to unknown killers.

Bloomfield, 57, was reported missing the morning of Sept. 22, 1997, by her husband, John, who had returned from a conference in France.

Frances Bloomfield's red 1994 Honda Accord also was missing.

John Bloomfield, a researcher at the University of Iowa's Center for Computer-Aided Design, could not be reached for this story.

Frances Bloomfield's body was found late that afternoon in the ditch along a highway about a mile outside of Rockford, Ill. The Winnebago County, Ill., medical examiner said Bloomfield had been dead for about two days. Neighbors told police they'd last seen Bloomfield outside her home late Sept. 20.

The body was wrapped in dark-colored plastic trash bags. The cause of death was strangulation by ligature a cord or similar device. The presumption is that Frances Bloomfield was killed in her home.

Detectives found bloodstains in the house and on the floor of its attached garage.

On Nov. 25, an employee noticed a red Honda Accord with no license plates parked in the long-term lot at Newark International Airport in New Jersey. A check of the car's serial number confirmed it was Bloomfield's.

The Bloomfields' neighbors on Wakefield Court in Iowa City said they rarely saw the couple, who moved there in 1995. Instead, Frances Bloomfield stayed close to her friends in Minneapolis, where she is buried.

Christopherson says Iowa DCI agents were in the Twin Cities two weeks ago, interviewing friends of the Bloomfields.

"Everyone's still kind of looking for a little closure, and we're hoping this gets resolved," says Christopherson.

Closure is something Mary Cline of Cedar Rapids is hoping for, too.

"I've been in that condition for 15 years," she says.

Cline's brother, Ron Novak, 24, was found bludgeoned to death in his rural Center Point home Dec. 24, 1983. The murder remains unsolved.

"It's always there," said Cline. "Always. You're very much aware that the people are still out there."

The Rev. Wanda Henry-Jenkins says, "It's almost like having a hole in your heart and being told to live."

Jenkins' mother was murdered in Chicago in 1972. The case remains open.

"There's a sense you can't trust anyone because you don't know who did it," says Jenkins, who has written about her experience and now directs a counseling program out of the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office for families of murder victims. "Everybody is a suspect when you don't know who did it."

Jenkins and Cline say their loved ones' unsolved murders left them without a focus for their anger and suspicion.

"You have all of this anger that you have no face to put with," says Cline, an advocate for survivors of homicide victims for Linn County Family Services. "You're trying to make sense of something that absolutely doesn't make sense."

Says Jenkins: "You're mad at everybody, and you turn it on yourself instead of others."

Cline says she's "almost kind of jealous" of members of her support group whose relatives' homicides have been solved. "I've always thought that if we had some answers, that would make it different."

Jenkins says some relatives "believe going to court, that somehow or another this is going to take care of the extraordinary pain that they feel."

She takes no comfort in knowing the legal experience is usually disappointing. "The justice system is only going to take care of the justice system. It's a legal thing. It has nothing to do with the family," Jenkins says.It took Jenkins about seven years to begin to accept that her mother's murder will probably go unsolved. "You have to make a decision about what can you do with the rest of your life," she says. "I decided that there are mysteries in life, and I can live with a mystery. It's the police's problem."

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.