IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A cancer-stricken 73-year-old man charged with strangling his wife in 1997 and dumping her body in a ditch can leave Iowa's custody and live under strict monitoring at his Minnesota home until trial, a judge ruled Tuesday.
John Bloomfield can live under house arrest at his St. Paul, Minn., residence until trial, which is currently scheduled for July 8, Judge Paul Miller said in a written order. He can only leave for medical appointments, court appearances and meetings with his attorney. He must surrender his passport and make arrangements for GPS monitoring by a private company, among other conditions, Miller wrote.
"I am convinced Defendant will appear for court proceedings as required and that he poses no danger to a specific person or the public if his conditions of release are modified," Miller wrote.
Bloomfield's attorney, Leon Spies, said it will take a few days to fulfill those conditions before his client will be released from the Iowa Medical and Classification Center, a prison medical center where he was receiving treatment for prostate cancer and other illnesses. One of Bloomfield's doctors said in December that he may only have a year to live because the cancer had spread throughout his body.
"I'm heartened that John's going to be able to get back in the care of his doctors up there and in an environment that's going to be more conducive to helping me with his defense," Spies said.
Bloomfield was arrested in November and charged with first-degree murder in the 1997 death of his wife, 57-year-old Frances Bloomfield. The couple lived in Iowa City, where Bloomfield was a University of Iowa researcher.
Investigators say Bloomfield strangled his wife at their home and then dumped her plastic-wrapped body in a ditch near Rockford, Ill. Bloomfield has insisted that he returned from an international business trip to find his home burglarized and blood-stained, with his wife's car missing. Her car later turned up at a New Jersey airport.
While he was scrutinized all along, investigators arrested him after they developed new forensic evidence. They say testing revealed that one of the ligatures used to bind Frances Bloomfield's body revealed a Y chromosome profile consistent with that of John Bloomfield. Investigators also determined that a hair found on tape that was on Frances Bloomfield's body was found to be "microscopically similar" to his hair.
Bloomfield, who has pleaded not guilty, was held at the Johnson County Jail after his arrest. Authorities later transferred him to the prison medical center to improve his care.
Spies had requested Bloomfield's release last month, saying that was necessary so he could get better health care from his providers at the University of Minnesota. Bloomfield would also have more freedom to help prepare his defense if released, Spies said.
But Johnson County prosecutors resisted the request, saying his release could jeopardize his appearance at court hearings and that he was already receiving good medical treatment. No other county defendant charged with murder had received a similar arrangement in recent decades, they noted. Prosecutors didn't immediately return messages seeking comment.
Spies said it was too soon to know whether the trial may have to be delayed.
"We want to go at this as expeditiously as possible given John's health," he said. "By the same token, we want to be well prepared. We know there is a huge amount of material that has not been disclosed to us yet by the government."