Sex, Death and Videotape: The death of Rebecca Bluff 

A man hopes to prove his ex-wife and best friend did not murder his daughter.

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In October 1998, Todd Bluff drove frantically from his border-town home in Ontario, Canada, to Salt Lake City, smoking nearly a carton of cigarettes along the way. “I was just told my daughter is dead and my wife and best friend were arrested. I was freaked out,” Bluff says. “I drove all night long. I remember because I chain smoked for 13 hours.”

Bluff’s anxiety focused mostly on his children. Rebecca was his first child, just two months short of her fourth birthday. Bluff, then 27, worried also about his 2-year-old daughter and who was caring for her while her mother was in jail.

As he drove, he didn’t know that police suspected Rebecca had been murdered. Arrested two days after were Rebecca’s mother, Ferosa Bluff, then 26; and family friends Andrew and Suzannah Fedorowicz, both 45 at the time.

Ferosa Bluff had left her husband about three weeks earlier after they decided to separate, and took their two daughters to stay with the Fedorowiczes as she plotted her future following the Bluff’s planned divorce.

“I was pissed off at Andrew on my way down to Utah,” Todd Bluff says. “It happened in his house. He’s the man of the house. He’s supposed to keep my kids safe. ... I was trying to place blame somewhere, [but] in my mind, this wasn’t a deliberate act. An accident must have happened,” Bluff says today from his home in Canada, where he still lives. This is the first time Todd Bluff is speaking publicly about the case.

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photographed in prison in 2010
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A very badly bruised Rebecca Bluff had died due to internal bleeding. Three days later, police and prosecutors told not only Todd Bluff but also the news media that they believe Rebecca had been tortured and murdered.

Two days later, prosecutors publicized a salacious twist: A search of the Fedorowiczes’ townhome at 1287 E. Vine Gate Drive found sadomasochistic sex toys such as leather straps, whips and restraints, as well as four video tapes depicting the Fedorowiczes and Ferosa Bluff using those toys in consensual, role-playing sex games. Salt Lake County prosecutors listed the sex toys in charging documents that are routinely obtained by the news media and alleged that sex toys caused bruises that led to the child’s death.

Todd Bluff—who, even as an ex-spouse of Ferosa, never believed the accusations—hoped the courts would discover the truth, but through a series of ineffective defense strategies and betrayals, he says, even the defense attorneys failed. In July 1999, Andrew Fedorowicz and Ferosa Bluff were convicted of murder, child abuse and sexual abuse of a child. In 2002, they lost appeals before the Utah Supreme Court. In 2010, they each maintained their own and each other’s innocence during their initial parole hearing. As he hoped every step of the way that the system would correct itself, Todd is now attempting to expose what he sees as tragic false convictions and perhaps attract some experts to their cause.

Over the past several years, Todd Bluff—who’s now remarried—and Suzannah Fedorowicz—whose charges were dropped in 1999 before trial in exchange for the two remaining defendants waiving their preliminary hearings (a hearing that is rarely beneficial to defendants anyhow)—have compiled hundreds of pages of research that they say proves not just that Andrew Fedorowicz and Ferosa Bluff are innocent, but that no one else is guilty of murdering Rebecca either.

Suzannah Fedorowicz declined to comment for this story except to say that she helped Todd with his ongoing investigation.

They claim Rebecca’s extensive bruising and internal bleeding can be explained by a previously undiagnosed blood disorder. Multiple prosecution witnesses said no tests were done to rule out this possibility. The research also accuses authorities of lies, smears and innuendo, like using a video tape of consensual adult bondage-sex games as evidence of child abuse and murder, or hinting to the jury, without evidence, that the defendants had a cult-like relationship, which prosecutors still hint about today but refuse to discuss in detail.

Todd Bluff has presented the research to the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, the governor’s office, to news reporters—to anyone who will listen. To him, his files are the defense his friends should have received long ago.

Ferosa Bluff, now 39, was born in South Africa to a father of Middle Eastern descent but moved with her family to Canada when she was still a baby. “When I met her [at 16 or 17 years old], she was Muslim, but through the same friend who introduced us,” Todd Bluff says, “she was already introduced to the [LDS] Church.” The two met at a church dance. Ferosa converted to the church and married Todd Bluff soon after, just seven months after their first date. Both were still teenagers.

Todd Bluff had known the Fedorowiczes longer than he had known his own wife. Andrew had been the teacher of a youth group in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that Todd Bluff attended in the Toronto area when he was 15. “I was friends with a lot of adults in the ward, as is very typical,” Todd says.

After they married, Ferosa became a stay-at-home mom. Their relationship with Andrew and Suzannah Fedorowicz grew stronger over time.

The Fedorowiczes moved from the Toronto area to Ottawa and later San Francisco, but the couples still socialized and stayed in each others’ homes when they traveled. “At this point, Andrew was absolutely my best friend, and vice versa,” Todd Bluff says.

By their mid 20s, marriage satisfaction waned for the Bluffs, however. Neither Ferosa nor Todd offer any specific details as to why. “We got married very young. We had changed, I guess. It just wasn’t there,” Todd Bluff says. During an interview at the prison, Ferosa said “irreconcilable differences” prompted the split.

The split was amicable and planned-out. Ferosa was going to take a vacation of indefinite length at the Fedorowiczes’ home in Salt Lake City. Todd says they decided quickly that she should take the children—at least at first—because of his work schedule.

About three weeks after Ferosa Bluff arrived in Salt Lake City with the two children, after a 12-hour shift at the cheese factory where he worked, Todd Bluff had a message from the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Department asking for a call back. When he called, Todd says, the officer said, basically, “Your daughter is dead, Ferosa has been arrested, you need to get down here.”

“So, I hopped in the car and drove all night.”

The defense made little effort to explain Rebecca’s physical condition at trial. Defense attorneys Gilbert Athay and Edward Brass called only two witnesses: Todd Bluff and a family friend, but no expert who could talk about blood diseases and whether a disease might explain Rebecca’s bruises and death. Their strategy, clearly outlined in their opening statements and recalled by Juror No. 2, Randall Thayne, was merely to argue that the prosecution didn’t have enough evidence to prove its case.

In theory, in a system where a defendant is innocent until proven guilty, that’s a great strategy, says Ferosa Bluff’s first defense attorney, Stephen McCaughey, but, “It was real hard to understand how she got that massive bruising. ... You’ve have to explain that somehow, and there was no explanation.”

Todd Bluff and Suzannah Fedorowicz’s re-examination aims to provide that explanation, but explaining how Rebecca got so many bruises has never been easy. At their trial, the medical evidence dominated. There were no witnesses who saw or heard anything that suggested Rebecca was abused. As Thayne put it, recalling the trial more than a decade later, “There wasn’t much for evidence. Just [Rebecca’s] body.”

Go to page two to continue the story or read the Re-examination Files

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Jesse Fruhwirth

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