CLARK COUNTY, Ind. — The trial of Joseph Oberhansley, an Indiana man accused of killing and cannibalizing his ex-girlfriend in 2014, began in Clark County Friday, September 11.
Oberhansley is charged with murder, rape and burglary in the 2014 death of his ex-girlfriend Tammy Jo Blanton. Investigators said Oberhansley killed Blanton at her home in Jeffersonville, then dismembered her and ate parts of her body.
This was the second time Oberhansley was on trial. A mistrial was ruled in 2019. During the 2019 trial, a witness testified about information that the state and defense had agreed to leave out because it could unfairly sway the jury.
Here are the day to day trial details.
Day 6: Friday, September 18
After 5 days of listening to testimony, seeing graphic photos and video, the jury in the Joseph Oberhansley finds him GUILTY of murder and burglary. They found him not guilty of rape.
Sentencing is scheduled to start Monday.
Oberhansley took the stand on Thursday. He was the only witness called by the defense.
Oberhansley was accused of killing and cannibalizing his ex-girlfriend Tammy Jo Blanton in 2014. Investigators said Oberhansley killed Blanton at her home in Jeffersonville, then dismembered her and ate parts of her body.
Friday, both sides presented closing arguments before the judge jurors instructions and sent them off to deliberate.
Unusual. Gruesome. Volent.
These are words that have described the case against Joseph Oberhansley throughout six days of trial and they were used again during closing arguments.
Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull called this case 'the age-old, tired, familiar story of a guy who's been told 'no more, I'm done' and he won't accept it. He had her blood on him. He had the murder weapon on his person," Mull said to the jury.
While on the stand Thursday, Oberhansley told the court that two other men stabbed Tammy to death and knocked him unconscious.
"To believe that story, you have to believe a series of coincidences of cosmic proportions happened," Mull told jurors.
Mull pointed to text messages sent from Tammy's phone on the morning of her death and Tammy's friend's testimony that Oberhansley answered that phone when they called her that morning.
He also pointed to the interview Oberhansley did with police in 2014. where Oberhansley confessed to killing and eating parts of Tammy's body.
Day 5: Thursday, September 17
Joesph Oberhansley took the stand in his own defense Thursday. He was the defense's only witness called.
Oberhansley told the court he returned to Tammy Blanton's home around 4 a.m. on September 11, 2014 after taking a walk by the river. He claims he knocked on the door, hoping to be able to get some of his things that were still inside, and that Tammy let him in. Oberhansley said two Black men were inside the home when he entered, and said they stabbed Tammy and knocked him unconscious. Oberhansley said he had never seen them before.
“When I came to I was halfway between the kitchen and front room,” he told the court. "I saw that knife laying there. I was scared I was worried, so I picked up the knife and walked around briefly." Oberhansley said this happened just moments before police knocked on the front door, stating he opened the door and talked with officers because he had nothing to hide.
The jury has already seen a taped interview with police where Oberhansley admits to killing Tammy Blanton and then eating parts of her body. On Thursday Oberhansley said he was coerced into a false confession.
“I stated over eight times in that interview that no, I did not kill Tammy,” Oberhansley said on the stand.
He said after the detective talked him through the crime scene he "started just going along with what he said."
"I just felt like I was telling him what he wanted to hear," said Oberhansley to the courtroom, "I do not know why I said the things that I said."
In cross examination, Oberhansley told Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull, "I was talking out of my head." He blamed a head injury for his confusion during the interview.
Oberhansley said he did not rape or sexually assault Tammy Blanton. He said she would have called police on him if he had done that.
Blanton's friends have testified that she told them Oberhansley raped her. Text messages between Tammy Blanton and Joseph Oberhansley were read in court Thursday. On September 8, 2014, Tammy wrote, "I won't be coming home. You can choose to be in denial of what happened Saturday night. I won't be in denial." Another text that same day read, "No one, and I mean no one, gets to terrify me the way you did on Sunday. I will never forget that as long as I live."
Oberhansley's defense team has fought hard against sexual assault allegations, pointing to a lack of physical evidence showing a rape occurred.
“I’m not guilty of any of these charges,' Oberhansley said as he pleaded with the jury to find him not guilty.
Day 4: Wednesday, September 16
Joseph Oberhansley's defense team has told WHAS since the first day of trial that they want the jury to focus on the specific law and crimes in this case. Wednesday they zeroed in on both the state's witnesses questioning any evidence of rape.
Two witnesses took the stand on the fourth day of trial, a DNA expert with Indiana State police and the doctor who performed the autopsy on Tammy Blanton the day after her death.
The DNA expert testified to finding Tammy Blanton's DNA on a plate and silverware found at the crime scene, along with a pair of tongs and a frying pan found on the stove. She said Tammy's DNA was found on Oberhansley's hands, and on a jigsaw found in the home.
She also testified that Oberhansley's DNA was found on a vaginal swab taken by the doctor who performed the autopsy.
The defense in cross examination pointed out the fact that no sperm was found, only DNA. The expert testified that she did not find any sperm on any of her tests, that the DNA found on the swab is a presumptive yes. It doesn't confirm that sperm from Oberhansley was present, and could be from skin or blood cells instead, according to the witness.
The defense also questioned the medical examiner on sexual assault, and asked if there was any evidence of trauma. The doctor testified to finding no evidence of any sexual assault, though he did tell the prosecutor physical evidence isn't always present in rape victims.
He showed photos of Tammy Blanton's body and close up photos of her face. He testified to finding multiple types of injuries, including stab wounds and blunt force trauma. He also said Blanton's heart was missing.
Biological material that was taken from the frying pan on the stove was sent to the medical examiner, which he said was consistent with brain matter.
He said injuries on her hands show she tried to fight back, and blood in her lung shows she was still alive when she was stabbed in the neck.
Day 3: Tuesday, September 15
Just a few days into the trial of Joseph Oberhansley, and the jury has seen dozens of crime scene photos. The third day also showed the jury a video of an interview police did with Oberhansley in 2014.
An investigating detective in the case described the home as a “very, very gruesome scene" in court Tuesday. He described finding "a lot of tissue, blood, pieces of skull and flesh..." inside the home.
Oberhansley’s defense team still said they’re working to have those images seen in a larger context.
“Those are the facts of the case," said Nick Karaffa, an attorney on Oberhansley's defense team. "We’re just trying to show the jury both sides of what happened and trying to paint a more clear picture.”
The majority of the third day of trial was taken up by an interview Oberhansley did with police after Tammy Blanton’s body was found in 2014. The interview was recorded and lasts multiple hours.
Oberhansley begins the interview by denying he knows anything, saying he hasn’t seen Tammy in two days. But after a while he admits to going back to her home, saying he wanted to get his stuff that was inside.
He first tells detectives two other men killed Tammy, which he also told WHAS on his way into trial on day one.
But later in the recorded interview from 2014 Oberhansley admits to killing Tammy Blanton. He admits to cooking and eating parts of her brain and heart. He told detectives he kicked in the back door of the home and the bathroom door to get to her.
When asked how Tammy reacted Oberhansley said something that Prosecutor Jeremy Mull quoted him on in opening statements: “She really wasn’t even all that scared surprisingly, like she knew.”
Despite all of the graphic evidence this jury has seen and heard, Oberhansley's defense team said they still feel confident about their case.
“We’ve still got the pathologist and a few other experts on that we’re looking forward to speak to," said Karaffa.
Court is set to resume Wednesday morning.
Day 2 | Monday, September 14
The state brought eight more witnesses to the stand Monday in the second day of trial for Joseph Oberhansley.
Oberhansley is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend Tammy Blanton inside her home on September 11, 2014, then eating parts of her body.
Monday's first witness was a friend and coworker of Tammy Blanton, followed by officers who first arrived at Tammy Blanton's home for a welfare check the day she was killed in 2014. Officers who responded said Oberhansley opened the door and talked with them. One officer also testified to finding a bloody knife, still open, in Oberhansley's back pocket.
Officers described blood on the walls, light switches and doorknobs inside the home. In cross-examination one of the responding officers, Oberhansley's defense team questioned them on Oberhansley's demeanor, asking if he ever seemed dangerous or agitated.
“I think it’s important for the jury to see the whole picture," said Defense Attorney Bart Betteau on Monday. "There's a lot of things going on in this case and I'm not going to discuss specific pieces of evidence, but there's a lot of things going on in this case that when the jury becomes aware of them, things happening with Joseph, I think it will paint the evidence in a totally different light."
Betteau warned the jury in his opening statements to watch out for emotional evidence, advising them to "keep your eye on what's important." He also told WHAS11 on the first day of the trial that the defense is working to keep the jury focused on what the law is and the actual crimes in the case.
Two boxes of evidence in the case were brought in and showed to the courtroom. Evidence included blood swabs from throughout the home, bloody towels, bloody cookware, bloody tools, and a plate and silverware set with organ pieces on it.
An investigating detective testified to finding Tammy Blanton’s body in the bathtub in 2014 with a piece of her skull removed. He also testified to finding evidence of forced entry not just into the home, but into the bathroom where Blanton’s body was found.
Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull said he will not be making a public comment during this trial.