Oberhansley of ‘cannibal case’ found guilty

Joseph Oberhansley, now 40, is seen here in an image from the August 2019 mistrial.


It's been six years since Joseph Oberhansley was charged with the killing of Tammy Jo Blanton and six years to the day after her death, a new trial began.


Friday, September 18, after six days of testimony and approximately five hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of guilty for murder and burglary. Oberhansley was found not guilty on the charge of rape.


After admitting to police during an interview on September 11, 2014 that he had killed Blanton and consumed part of her heart, brain, and lungs, he since maintained that he was "confused" when he confessed, and changed his story.


He maintained this narrative on the stand Thursday afternoon saying that there had been two unidentified assailants that stabbed Blanton dozens of times but merely left him unconscious.  According to the Indy Star, he asserted that he did not known who had consumed some of Blanton's organs after her death.


During the trial, jurors heard from friends of Blanton, police officers that had found her body, forensic examiners and others.  What was conspicuously absent were any sign of psychologists or psychiatrists on the witness stand.


The Courier Journal states that in August 2019 the prosecution accepted a deal in which they would take the death penalty off the table should he be convicted in exchange for "mental health defense evidence" being excluded from the trial.  Goshen News indicated that the deal was brokered by Oberhansley himself, without his attorney's blessing.


“Defendant Oberhansley has made it abundantly clear to this court and to his counsel that it is his desire to stand trial and allow a jury to determine his guilt or innocence,” Judge Vicki Carmichael stated in a ruling from June 2019.  “He has consistently refuted any suggestion that he suffers from a mental illness. He has specifically requested his counsel to refrain from using such a defense, which is his right.”


After even more delays related to Oberhansley's mental health and even the declaration of a mistrial, he was restored to competency to stand trial in August.


Only when it came time for the jury to make their recommendation for sentencing was evidence concerning Oberhansley's mental health allowed to be presented to the jury. During a hearing Monday, the jury heard testimony from two psychologists that had met with him extensively.  Heather Henderson-Galligan described his condition as "severe, continuous schizophrenia."


Reading from her notes, she stated that during some of her first meetings with him in 2014 he was agitated, pacing, and saying things over and over again.  "I need a job, I need freedom ... I see demons."


Psychiatrist Timothy Allen additionally testified that he believes Oberhansley suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and thought disorders including the belief that people were putting thoughts into his head.  According to his testimony, Oberhansley believed that he was one of the few people able to read thoughts and had a goal of accessing a "soul database."


Monday the jury returned a recommendation of life in prison without parole after less than an hour of deliberation.


The sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 13.  Oberhansley will remain in custody of Clark County until then, when the jury's recommendation is expected to be upheld.


The defense intends to appeal the verdict and the sentence.




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