JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WAVE) – Did Joseph Oberhansley break into the home of his ex-girlfriend in 2014, before raping and murdering her?
That’s what a jury will decide in Clark County as the trial continues for the man accused of murdering Tammy Jo Blanton and eating parts of her body.
For the first time in years, Oberhansley was brought into the courtroom not in a jail uniform and handcuffs but instead, a suit jacket.
Coming in, Oberhansley said once again that he didn’t kill Blanton.
“State prosecution knows I’m not guilty in this case that’s why they dropped the death penalty,” he said. “Two black male suspects broke into the house and killed Tammy.”
Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull painted a grim picture for the jurors, telling them how Blanton had come to be very afraid of the man she’d been living with for a few months at her home in Jeffersonville. He told jurors that the weekend before the murder, Oberhansley held Blanton captive, raping her, eventually leading her to change her locks and kick him out of the house.
Oberhansley interjected during the prosecutor’s opening statements, at one point saying he objected, and another time contradicting the prosecutor about what he was telling the jury, saying “You don’t have any proof of that.”
Mull described to jurors how Oberhansley broke into Blanton’s home on Sept. 11, 2014, stabbing her 25 times. Some of those stab wounds were to her nose and mouth.
Nearly five years after Blanton’s death, and a number of delays in the case, Mull said he’s ready to get to work with the trial.
“The family has been so patient,” he said. “And it’s been something that has weighed on me every single day as the Clark County Prosecutor, the fact that this case was pending, untried, and this family hasn’t received justice yet.”
After Mull’s opening statements, it was the defense’s turn.
The opening statements on their side were much shorter. Instead, they asked the jury to look at the evidence presented from all sides and to keep an open mind, especially when hearing Oberhansley’s interview with police during the coming days of his trial.
Defense attorney Brent Westerfeld said Oberhansley is delusional, having a difficult time understanding the proceedings because of his mental illness. An insanity defense will not be used in the case, at Oberhansley’s insistence, but Westerfeld said his mental health needs to be weighed here.
“We believe his decision making was the result of his mental illness, and we believe that makes this process unfair,” Westerfield said. “You know, when a crazy person is deciding what his defense is, that’s a problem in our mind under the constitution.”
Judge Vicki Carmichael instructed jurors they’ll need to listen to the evidence over the coming days and decide if Oberhansley is guilty of burglary, rape and murder beyond a reasonable doubt.
After opening statements, jurors were taken back to their hotel for the night. They are being sequestered until they’ve reached a verdict in the case.