At around 2:50AM on September 11, 2014, police received a call from a woman explaining that her ex-boyfriend was attempting to kick down the back door to her home on Locust Street in Jeffersonville. 46-year-old Tammy Jo Blanton had recently broken up with her boyfriend of 4 months, 38-year-old Joseph Oberhansley, and changed the locks to her home. She had confided in a co-worker that several days before she had suffered multiple rapes at the hands of her ex and needed to get away from him.
Police responded to the call and waited until they were sure Oberhansley had left the premises.
Later that same day they returned to Blanton’s home to perform a welfare check. She worked at Zirmed, a health care technology company in Louisville but failed to show up or call in sick, which was out of character for her. Considering her relationship and the incident the night before, her co-workers felt it best to check up on Tammy Jo and called the authorities.
When police arrived at the Jeffersonville residence, they found the back door to the home kicked down. A responding officer reported that they found Joseph Oberhansley loitering outside the house looking worried. When they attempted to search his person for any concealed items the man reacted with panic and resisted, and they noticed that he had abrasions on his bloodied knuckles. The police would soon discover his reaction was because he had a knife tucked into the pocket of his jacket. Oberhansley was promptly arrested and detained in a padded cell.
Officers described the nightmarish interior of the house as looking like something out of a horror movie, it was completely covered with blood. They noted large, wide bloody trails that they quickly identified as drag marks and a tarp with various tools and implements laid out on it. Both the victims and the suspects DNA were found on several items in the home, including a knife, a jigsaw, a skillet, a pair of tongs and some nail clippers. There was also a plate with what appeared to be pieces of skull and bone on it.
Upstairs, in the bathroom is where they discovered the body of Tammy Jo Blanton. Her contorted and mutilated remains were sprawled out in the bathtub and multiple stab wounds were immediately evident. She had been sexually assaulted, and her head was wounded with what appeared to be a portion of the skull missing. Oberhansley would later claim to have cannibalised his ex-partners organs after stabbing her to death in her own home. He confessed to eating parts of the woman’s brain, heart and lungs. He would later recant this statement and claim that he was in a state of confusion and fabricated a story about two unknown men breaking into Blanton’s property and knocking him out before stabbing her to death.
In 2017 the suspect was deemed unfit to stand trial. After a year of treatment at a facility ran by the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction, he was deemed competent to face the court in 2019, however it ended in a mistrial when a witness referred to his criminal history.
Despite Oberhansley’s defence attorney claiming that he was too mentally disturbed to stand this year, citing mental illness and symptoms such as hallucinations and concerning weight-loss, medical professionals appointed by the court did not believe the suspect was unfit to stand trial or to plead insanity. The court appointed psychologist and psychiatrist had been seeing Oberhansley since his original arrest and although they initially noted disturbances in his behaviour, they felt his symptoms had improved with the help of medication.
Records showed the suspect was on parole at the time he murdered Blanton. In 2000 he killed his girlfriend and shot his own mother. Reports state he also attempted to commit suicide afterwards but survived and lives with the bullet stuck in his brain- a rare occurrence that can happen as a result of being hit with a low velocity projectile. He was charged with manslaughter and served 12 years in a prison in Utah for his crimes.
Oberhansley continued to reiterate the story that two unknown men were responsible for Blanton’s death last month at his trial in Clark County Circuit Court. He claimed that he did not see or speak to her that day despite being found standing outside of her home on the day she was murdered, hiding a bloody knife in his pocket. The suspect did not mention the cannibalism and the missing pieces of her organs were never accounted for. Both the victim’s friends and co-workers and forensic experts testified against Oberhansley and he was ultimately found guilty on September 18, 2020 of burglary and murder, but not rape. It is possible he may spend the rest of his life behind bars without the chance of parole, a sentence jurors agreed to be a fitting punishment.