Iowa City murder suspect in poor health, attorney says

Bloomfield also took pay cut when he moved from Iowa to Minnesota, records show

John Bloomfield
John Bloomfield

John Bloomfield was a free man for the 16 years after his wife's murder.

But that does not mean the former University of Iowa researcher who had been living in St. Paul, Minn. — where he was arrested Tuesday for the September 1997 murder — was necessarily living a comfortable life. Records show Bloomfield took a hefty pay cut when he joined the University of Minnesota, traded his Iowa City home for an St. Paul apartment and his health has deteriorated.

"Mr. Bloomfield's health is precarious," said Leon Spies, an Iowa City defense lawyer. "He's a very ill man. There are immediate concerns about his health and his welfare."

Spies said he couldn't go into the specifics of Bloomfield's health problems, but suspected the "details of that will become clear."

Spies became Bloomfield's attorney in 1997 and has remained a "steadfast client over the years," the lawyer said Wednesday. Spies said he was in contact with Bloomfield and his family on Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

Bloomfield, 73, was arrested Tuesday in Minnesota for the murder of his wife, Frances Bloomfield.

At an appearance Wednesday afternoon at Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center in St. Paul, Minn., Bloomfield opted to further continue his hearing and delayed making a decision on whether or not to waive extradition, citing a desire to hire a private attorney.

His bail remains at $2 million.

A decision about extradition is expected during Bloomfield’s next court appearance, which is scheduled for 1:20 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 5. If he waives extradition, he will be held for two weeks until Iowa authorities can retrieve him.

If Bloomfield opts against waiving extradition, he will have another hearing scheduled in 30 days.

Frances Bloomfield, 57, who lived at 38 Wakefield Court in Iowa City, was reported missing Sept. 22, 1997, by her husband that day. Three days later, Winnebago County, Ill., authorities found a body bound with pantyhose and wrapped in plastic and duct tape in a ditch near Rockford.

Authorities believed Bloomfield had been strangled in her Iowa City home. Court documents released in 1997 revealed investigators who responded to the Bloomfield home found blood stains in two bedrooms on the second floor of the home, as well as a mark that indicated Bloomfield was dragged through the hallway.

A blood stain also was found on the wall at the bottom of the stairs between the first and second floors, and two stains were located on the garage floor, according to the documents, which are detailed in a Nov. 26, 1997, Gazette article.

Her car was later discovered at Newark, N.J., International Airport.

John Bloomfield told authorities he was in the Chicago area returning from a business trip at the time of his wife’s death. However, police said Bloomfield was unable to sufficiently account for the time when he would have been driving.

Police said advances in forensic DNA analysis allowed them to match the Y chromosome profile found on a ligature used to bind Frances Bloomfield's body to John Bloomfield's Y chromosome profile. However, 1 in 1,000 people would be expected to have that same DNA profile.

A hair found on tape located on Frances's body also is "microscopically similar" to John Bloomfield's hair.

Iowa City police Det. David Gonzalez, who investigates cold cases, said there is more to the case, but he was unable to comment because the investigation is ongoing.

"There's not a whole lot I can tell you," Gonzalez said Wednesday. "There are some things we are still working on.

"It doesn't mean the investigation itself is done. There are things I need to follow up on."

Spies said Wednesday John Bloomfield never remarried. He has two sons — Stuart and James Bloomfield, both living out of state. Bloomfield's sons could not be reached for comment, but Spies said has spoken with them both.

"They are firmly in his corner," Spies said of the sons.

According to the University of Iowa, Bloomfield was making nearly $93,000 a year when he left his position as a researcher at the UI's Center for Computer-Aided Design.

Bloomfield joined the University of Minnesota in 2000. His director at that university’s Center for Design in Health said she was uncomfortable commenting on the allegations against Bloomfield, but noted that he retired three to four years ago. In fiscal year 2008-2009, Bloomfield's salary was $47,457, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

At the time of his arrest, Bloomfield was living at an apartment complex on Highland Parkway in St. Paul. His former home in Iowa City is assessed at $160,470.

Spies said Bloomfield was still doing some consulting work, but his health hampered him.

"His health limited his mobility and his ability to engage professionally," Spies said.

Spies said he was aware the investigation of Frances Bloomfield's death has resumed about a year and a half ago, but the lawyer said he was still surprised by John Bloomfield's arrest.

"The timing of things like this are always unforeseen," he said. "To that extent, I'm surprised. I'm sure John's family is discouraged, as well."

Bloomfield has yet to be extradited to Johnson County. Spies said Wednesday morning he was still trying to determine when an extradition hearing would take place.

If Bloomfield waives extradition, he will be transported to Johnson County in the near future to stand trial. If he opts to fight extradition, the Johnson County Attorney's Office would have to get a extradition warrant to have Bloomfield transferred.

An extradition to Johnson County will present a unique set of challenges, given Bloomfield's poor health, Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek said Wednesday.

"We're not sure what to expect," Pulkrabek said. "And so, it's something, when we get him back, we'd probably call our (physician assistant) over and consult with him...and see what our options are."

Pulkrabek said the jail has brought in health care professionals to provide specialized care to inmates in the past, but Bloomfield's case could be "new territory," particularly if he's terminally ill. Options currently being explored include keeping Bloomfield at the jail and providing treatment there, using electronic monitoring and housing him at an area hospital, or holding him at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center. It's all up in the air until Bloomfield's health has been assessed, Pulkrabek said.

"Until we have him in our custody...and get our health professionals involved, I can only speculate," he said. "This case is going to be unique in a lot of ways."

First-degree murder is a class A felony punishable by life in prison.

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