After years of delays primarily related to mental fitness, the trial of Joseph Oberhansley, dubbed the 'cannibal case' by some, finally started on Wednesday, August 21st. Opening statements were made, and the jury, which was to be sequestered throughout the case, was dismissed for the day, and scheduled to return Thursday morning at 8 am.
On the first day of testimony, prosecutors called a witness to the stand. She was a long time friend of Tammy Jo Blanton, 46, whom Oberhansley is accused of raping, murdering, and consuming some of her body including brain, lungs, and heart. The witness discussed that Blanton had, after an incident between the couple, refrained from calling police concerning Oberhansley because she "didn't want him to go back to prison." The witness also made mention to a conversation between herself and Blanton about drugs being a motivator in Oberhansley's behavior.
On those statements, the defense made motion for a mistrial, and the judge, Clark County Circuit Judge Vicki Carmichael, granted it. Even Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull agreed with the judge's ruling stating that the case could easily have been overturned on appeal due to that testimony. He further said, "It certainly makes sense to delay with two weeks rather than another half-decade."
Some sources indicate that the trial is scheduled to resume September 3rd, while others indicate it will resume September 21st. Either way, a new jury and set of alternates must first be selected before the trial can resume. Due to arguments from Oberhansley's attorney that he would not be able to receive a fair and unbiased trial in Clark County, the jury will once again be selected from a pool in Hamilton County, north of Indianapolis.
This trial focuses on the September 11, 2014 rape, murder, and desecration of Tammy Jo Blanton, who was 46 at the time.
Oberhansley, then 33, and Blanton had broken up when he showed up to her residence, and broke in. During the course of the night, he raped her and fatally stabbed her in the head, neck and torso. Earlier in the night, at about 3 am, Blanton called police to report that Oberhansley was attempting to break into her residence. Police showed up, and Oberhansley agreed to leave. One officers left, however, he returned.
When Blanton didn't show up to work the next morning, a welfare check was called and police were dispatched to her residence. Oberhansley opened the door, and according to records, acted evasively when asked about Blanton's whereabouts, and acted"suspicious." When police were admitted, they discovered a grisly scene.
Blanton's remains were located in a bathtub, covered by a vinyl camping tent. She had deep wounds into her head and chest, and parts of her brain, heart and lungs were visibly missing.
In the kitchen, there was a "plate with what appeared to be skull bone and blood", as well as a skillet, and tongs with a bloodied handle, according to a police affidavit.
After being arrested and charged with murder, he made some rather bizarre statements while being interviewed by police.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Oberhansley admitted in an interview in 2014 to breaking into her home and mutilating her body, but in the same interview, also said that he was being set up by two armed black men that he had to chase from the scene. Detectives also said that Oberhansley said he could hear Blanton's thoughts and that she was intending to cut his head off. He also made comments about Zeus and someone having an eye in their forehead.
It was also reported that during that interview, he made comments about his head tingled, and statements like, "I'm like electrifying right now" and "the gates are sealed." When left alone in the interview room, officers observed him alternating between making buzzing noises and saying, "Get back."
His trial was originally slated to begin in June of 2017 but psychological evaluations caused delays. The defense attorney requested that Oberhansley undergo psychological evaluations by three separate court appointed psychiatrists and psychologists. They maintained that he had a "debilitating" and "serious" mental illness that included delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia. They said it was the only explanation for the "bizarre behavior" that he exhibited not only in the crime itself, but also in the videos from the police interviews.
In October of that year, they delivered the results to Judge Carmichael that he was unfit to stand trial. She ordered him committed to the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction for a period of time so that he could be restored to competency. After months of treatment, a psychiatrist ruled that he was then competent to stand trial.
Once his trial actually began in August of 2018, he told Judge Vicki Carmichael that he wanted new counsel. "They're trying to control my thoughts," he told the judge about the counsel he had. "They're trying to control my mind."
Oberhansley's history though, goes back even further, to December 1998. In a meth-fueled rage, Oberhansley shot his 17 year old girlfriend and killed her. He also shot his mother in the back, and according to some reports, shot at his sister and infant son before turning the gun on himself and pulling the trigger. The bullet lodged in his frontal lobe.
In 2000 he pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He was released from prison in Utah in 2012.