"I believe there is good and bad in every one of us, so I do not demonize or vilify you. That’s too easy. That makes it too easy for the rest of us to separate ourselves and our humanity from you and yours. To the evil in you, that you CHOSE to follow, I say this: this was a monumental loss for Evil and a stunning win for LOVE. You stole Jessie’s life and future, you had power and dominion over her body for a few minutes, but NEVER for one second did you have one ounce of power or control over her Spirit, her Heart, her Will, her Grace, her Beautiful Goodness, and her Deep LOVE."
-Buck Blodgett, Jessie's father
It was the 15th of July 2013. A Monday. Nineteen year old Jessie Blodgett was in bed when her parents, Buck and Joy Blodgett, went to work. They lived in Hartford, Wisconsin, United States. Buck left for work first and before Joy went to work, she dropped some laundry into Jessie's bedroom at 8am. Joy left for work around fifteen minutes later.
Buck, Joy and Jessie Blodgett
Buck and Joy only had one child and they could not have been more proud of her. She was a talented and gifted musician and was always playing the piano and singing around the house. She was passionate about multiple causes including animal rights and advocating against violence towards women. But there was something about music that just inspired her daily. Jessie shared her gift with others and taught music to children. She started her own business teaching piano, voice, and violin in Hartford and in just two months, she had 26 students. She hoped to become a high school or university choir director and wanted music to impact people and change the world.
The night before, the 14th of July, Jessie, who was also a stage actress, played the fiddler in Fiddler On The Roof at the Sunday matinée show. It was the opening weekend of the show and the place was full. Afterwards, she went to the cast party at a friend's house. Joy saw her when she got home at 1am, they spoke about the night and then both went to bed. Joy went to work the next morning and thought Jessie was still asleep in bed.
When Joy got back home that day around noon, to have lunch, the house was silent. Jessie was due to give a piano lesson that day and the student called to the house at 12.30pm. Joy called Jessie's name to let her know that the student arrived but there was no answer so she went up into her bedroom to wake her up. Jessie was in her bedroom but when Joy touched her, she discovered she was cold. Joy called 911 and told them her daughter was blue. When Joy turned Jessie over, she discovered marks on her neck. She told the 911 Operator that “It looks like strangulation marks.” Joy said:
“That’s what it looks like. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know what’s going on.”
Joy tried to revive Jessie using CPR but it was too late. Jessie was dead. When police arrived, Jessie's hair and her clothes were wet and police believed that she had been washed after she was strangled to death. There was no sign of any forced entry. Joy told police that she saw Jessie in bed that morning at 8am but she does not know if she was alive at that time. She thought she was asleep. She did not see anyone else in her bedroom and when Jessie got home after the cast party the night before, she was alone.
Police found ligature marks on Jessie's neck, left wrist and ankles. The Autopsy confirmed that she died as a result of "ligature strangulation." Jessie had been sexually assaulted and strangled to death.
As it appeared that Jessie was strangled to death in her own bedroom and there was no sign of any forced entry, police retraced her movements from the night before. They knew she took part in the show on the Sunday and was at the cast party after that. They found her journal in her bedroom and discovered that there were two men who made Jessie feel uncomfortable. One of the men, an older man, was at the cast party and pulled Jessie on to his lap. But when police spoke to him, he was cooperative and they were in a position to clear him quickly.
At the time of Jessie's murder, police were investigating an attack on a woman that happened three days before Jessie was murdered. Melissa Etzler was walking her dog at a park when she felt someone walking closely behind her. She turned around and saw a man but she wasn't frightened at first, she thought he was just too close. But the man then attacked her with a fish fillet knife. He knocked her on to the ground and got on top of her. Melissa managed to grab hold of the knife. She was holding it so tightly that it cut her hand and it was bleeding. The man then asked if he could go. And he did. He left. Melissa kept the knife and managed to give a very detailed description of what the man looked like and the car he drove. A blue Dodge Caravan. Another police officer saw the van previously and had a license plate for it. When they ran the plate, it led police to a married couple who looked nothing like the composite sketch that had been created based on Melissa's description. But police discovered the couple had a son. Twenty year old Daniel Bartelt. And he looked exactly like the sketch.
Police rang Daniel on the 16th of July and he agreed to meet them at the station. When Daniel arrived at the station though, he thought they wanted to talk to him about Jessie. It transpired that Daniel and Jessie were friends.They knew each other since high school and had sat next to each other for years. They had dated in the past but Daniel ended the relationship. They remained friends as they both loved music and when Daniel dropped out of college and returned home, they spent more time together and had even recently composed together.
Jessie's and Daniel's Demo
Daniel was a talented violinist. He was well liked, funny and outgoing.
When police called Daniel that day, the 16th of July, he was at Jessie's house at a vigil. He left and went to the station and was very cooperative. He told police that a friend had told him about Jessie's death. Police asked him what he thought happened to Jessie. He said that he thought she was raped and strangled. That troubled police. At that point, it had not been confirmed that Jessie had been raped. But police moved on from discussing Jessie's murder and told him that they wanted to talk to him about a different matter, about a woman who had been attacked.
As police spoke to him, they observed scrapes and a cut on his arm and hand. Daniel told police he did not remember how he got the scrape on his arm but that the wound on his hand was from stabbing it with a screw at work. But after further questions from the police in relation to the injuries, Daniel told them he had been laid off from work and it was from a cooking accident.
Daniel had been caught in a lie in relation to his injuries and police used it to their advantage and urged him to tell the truth. Police discussed DNA with Daniel and the need to be honest. After being questioned repeatedly, Daniel eventually said that he was involved and he attacked Melissa but he insisted that he just wanted to scare her. According to Daniel, he was at the park that day reading. He had dropped out of college after one semester and moved home and got a job. But he lost his job, something he did not tell his parents about, and often spent time in the park. That day, the 12th of July, he was in the park. He told police that he saw Melissa and decided in the spur of the moment to run after her and knock her down and scare her. Daniel said he didn't know why he did it, he was just numb and said:
"life scares me."
When asked why he chose Melissa, Daniel said she was the only one there. Daniel was arrested and the next day, he was questioned further. This time it was in relation to Jessie's murder. Police asked Daniel what he was doing the day Jessie was murdered, the 15th of July. Daniel told them that he left his house early that day, at 6.30am, and drove all over before spending a few hours at Woodlawn Union Park.
Based on that information, police went to Woodlawn Union Park and searched through garbage cans. They found a Frosted Mini Wheats cereal box which contained paper toweling, ropes, tape and antiseptic wipes with red stains. DNA that matched both Jessie and Daniel was found on the ropes and one rope matched the ligature marks on Jessie's neck and another matched the marks on her wrists and ankles. When police searched Daniel's house, they found the same type of rope in his garage. Jessie's and Dan's DNA was found on the rope. Daniel's DNA was found under Jessie's fingernails. When they searched Jessie's bedroom, they found tape under her bed. Daniel's fingerprints were on it. Police believed that he tied Jessie up, gag balled her and taped her so that it would not come out. They had the evidence but did not know why he targeted Jessie, a person who he was close to.
When police searched Daniel's belongings, they found a disc that had a novel "Red is Red" by Joseph Bartelt. Joseph is Daniel's middle name. An extract from the novel focuses on a character named Jessica. It also detailed a character named "D" beating another character into a coma using a pillowcase filled with Legos. Daniel's laptop was found to have been used for searches such as "serial killer wiki," "list of serial killers by number of victims." Other serial killers were searched by name. The laptop also revealed that there were searches for bondage pornography and pornographic snuff films. Police believed that Daniel raped and murdered Jessie to satisfy his dark desires and urges. They believed he chose her because he knew her and knew how to get inside her house.
Daniel was charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless endangerment, and attempted false imprisonment for the attack on Melissa and first-degree intentional homicide for the murder of Jessie.
Despite Daniel's plea of not guilty, he was found guilty of Jessie's murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. A plea agreement was reached regarding the charges of attempted murder, reckless endangerment and false imprisonment. In exchange for a guilty plea to first degree reckless endangerment, the other charges were dropped. He was sentenced to five years and five years extended supervision consecutive to his life sentence.
Daniel appealed the murder conviction. He argued that the Court improperly denied his suppression Motion. At the outset of the Trial, he tried to have the confession and statements he made to police excluded from the Trial. He argued that he had asked for a lawyer in the period of post confession questioning. Namely, when he admitted he attacked Melissa, he then asked for a lawyer but none was provided and when he was questioned the next day about Jessie, he did not have a lawyer present. The Court said that Daniel was not in custody until after he requested an attorney, ten minutes after confessing to the attack and due to that, when he asked to speak with a lawyer, the police were free to resume questioning the next day, because “an assertion of Miranda ... which a person makes while they are not in custody, does not prospectively prohibit law enforcement from attempting to interview an individual later.”
Throughout the Trial and sentencing, Daniel maintained that he is innocent. He looked directly at Joy and Buck and said:
"Buck, Joy , I can't give you the reasons you are looking for. There's no hiding from yourself in a tiny, concrete cell. This jumpsuit that I'm wearing, these shackles don't make me guilty. I know there's evidence that I can't refute that would make you believe that I am guilty. "
He denied that he killed Jessie.
After Jessie's murder, her parents Buck and Joy, started the Love Is Greater Than Hate Project. Buck wants to spread Jessie's message and he travels to schools, corporations, nonprofits and prisons to ask men to pledge not to hurt women.
The Project advocates love over hate and works towards motivating people to choose love instead of violence. It's something that he himself lives by every day. Buck made a choice. He chose to forgive Daniel.
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"My family and myself are good, decent and very honest people."
"He is the single most blatant, arrogant, yet curiously effective liar and manipulator of the truth.”
- Deputy District Attorney Christopher Evans
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