William R. Bloom was sleeping soundly in an upstairs bedroom of his white brick Arlington house Oct. 28 when he was awakened at 5 a.m. by the reflection of flashing police car lights on the ceiling and a commotion outside.
"I had no idea it was [for] this house," said Bloom, recounting how he was startled by the discovery that his 27-year-old son had been killed in a basement apartment, the victim of what Arlington County law officers have called one of the most bizarre murders in Northern Virginia in recent years.
"It's certainly one of the most unusual cases I've ever prosecuted," said Commonwealth's Attorney Henry E. Hudson.
Robert Bloom, a brain-damaged young man who searched desperately for friendships, was killed in his two-bedroom basement apartment in the family's house at the end of a seven-hour "exorcism," police have said.
According to court testimony, the man who summoned police to the Bloom house is the man charged with beating Robert Bloom to death while attempting to rid him of what he told detectives was "a legion of demons."
Daniel R. Kfoury, a 30-year-old man who had held various part-time jobs around the Washington area, said he had met Robert Bloom the previous week at a meeting of the Five Fold Ministry, a small charismatic Christian group that meets in the basement of a 12-story apartment building in the Seven Corners area. Four days before the fatal beating, Kfoury moved into Robert Bloom's apartment, according to William Bloom.
Kfoury, who is being held in the Arlington jail under $150,000 bond on a murder charge, has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric examination. Hudson said he will await the results of the tests before deciding whether to prosecute him on a first-degree murder charge, which requires proof of malice and premeditation, or a lesser charge at his trial Feb. 10. Frank J. Ceresi, one of three defense attorneys, has declined to comment on the case.
An account of what occurred in the basement of the house at 4907 Washington Blvd. during Bloom's last night can be pieced together from police interviews and testimony given by police during Kfoury's preliminary hearing Nov. 18. After Kfoury failed to revive Robert Bloom, he slipped out of the house, walked down the street and called police from a telephone at a gasoline station, police said.
Police said at the hearing that Kfoury gave them a detailed statement, which they videotaped. In the statement, they said, Kfoury told them the beating lasted seven hours and was the fourth "exorcism" he had performed to release "over 2,000 demons" he believed had caused Robert Bloom's mental and physical impairments.
Kfoury said he did not intend to kill Robert Bloom, only to rid him of demons, the officers said. When he exorcised the chief demon called Orion, Kfoury said, Robert died. The cause of death was asphyxiation, a medical examiner ruled.
William Bloom said he and his wife were at home most of that night and heard nothing suspicious. Robert, William Bloom said, was the eighth of 11 children and had been a "wonderful student" through high school at H-B Woodlawn Secondary School in Arlington. He also had been on the dean's list at Northern Virginia Community College, the elder Bloom said.
The summer before his second year at college, Robert was struck by a truck in Memphis as he bicycled home from a cross-country trip to see his brother in Oregon, and sustained severe brain injuries.
"He was a big part of the Woodlawn community . . . . He was very well liked and a bit of a ladies' man in school," said Andrew White, a high school friend, who also recalled that Robert Bloom had participated in school plays.
But after the bicycle accident, Robert became "very disoriented, his speech pattern was interrupted and he was not able to concentrate, his father said. "He lost his judgment, his discrimination."
Reared a Catholic, Robert Bloom began "shopping around" for other religions, his father said, and, about five weeks before he died, came upon the Five Fold Ministry. The group has about 100 members who meet two or three times a week -- including Sunday mornings -- in the basement of the apartment building near Seven Corners.
The Rev. Nathan Robinson, a pastor of the three-year-old congregation, said in an interview the "independent, full gospel" church's services involve speaking in tongues and prayers for healings and deliverance. The church does not practice or teach exorcism, he said, adding that he had no idea if, as police testified, some members of the sect helped Kfoury in an earlier exorcism of Robert Bloom in a church room.
"The ministry has never authorized or knowingly permitted the use of ministry facilities for the purpose of any exorcism," Robinson said in a statement last month.
William Bloom said that, among his son's personal effects, he found a pamphlet describing a videotape on "demonology" that was available at the church. Robinson said the church has the videotape and he plans to show it sometime next year.
"I just thought it would be something of interest," he said. The tape was made by another minister, he said.
Robinson said neither Kfoury nor Bloom was registered for any of the church's classes.
Bloom said he doubted his son went to the church for its teachings: "It wasn't religion. It was the fellowship. He was very lonesome. Before his accident, he was a leader in his social set. He knew everyone and he was friends with everyone."
After the accident, he said, his son's old friends left him behind. When his son met Kfoury at the church, Bloom said, and the two struck up a friendship.
Kfoury's father, Antoine Kfoury of Locust Grove, Va., in an interview described his son "a good boy" who recently had become obsessed with demons. "He's never been on drugs, or on this or that," he said, adding that his son "never had an enemy."
Antoine Kfoury said his son studied theology for a year at Valley Forge College in Phoenixville, Pa., and then at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., after he graduated from Washington-Lee High School, where he played on the football team.
After that, he said, Daniel, the second of four children, held odd jobs around the Washington area for a while and then went to New York where he worked as a designer of women's fashions. He was listed as unemployed when he was arrested.
Daniel Kfoury joined the Army a few years ago and was stationed in Germany, recalled Antoine Kfoury, who said he lost contact with his son about that time.
He said his son began talking to his mother about demons shortly after he left the Army in August and moved in with her at her Arlington condominium. His mother, Betty Kfoury, declined to be interviewed.
"She told me he was getting books on demons. That's not part of our religion," said Antoine Kfoury, a Catholic who brought his four children up in the religion. "She told him he had to forget the books and go to work."
Robinson said Kfoury started attending his church in September and was "a very talkative, live-wire individual." But when he began talking of demons, the pastor said, a church member "warned him to get out of that area."