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An Indiana man accused of killing and then eating the organs of his ex-girlfriend is back in front of a jury this week in a new trial, after an initial mistrial in 2019.
Joseph Oberhansley, 38, is facing charges of rape, murder, and burglary after his ex-girlfriend Tammy Jo Blanton, was discovered in the bathtub of her Jeffersonville home on Sept. 11, 2014 with a portion of her skull missing and some of her vital organs removed.
The 46-year-old had been raped and stabbed at least 25 times, police said at the time, according to People.
“It’s worse than anything you’d see in a horror movie,” Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull said last week of the details of the grisly slaying, according to local station WAVE.
Oberhansley was initially deemed incompetent to stand trial in 2017, but the decision was later overturned and his first trial began in 2019.
That trial was declared a mistrial after one of Blanton’s friends took the stand and told jurors that Blanton had not called police after an allegedly violent incident between the couple because she “didn’t want him to go back to prison” and believed he was “reformed,” according to Courier Journal.
Clark County Circuit Judge Vicki Carmichael granted the defense’s motion for a mistrial after agreeing that mentioning his criminal past and past drug use could put him “in great peril” of a prejudicial jury.
Oberhansley’s second trial began late last week.
The gruesome case began on Sept. 11, 2014 after police were called to do a welfare check at Blanton's home after she hadn't showed up to work.
When police knocked on the door, Oberhansley answered the door and told officers that he hadn’t seen his ex-girlfriend.
But Maj. Mark Lovan, who is now retired, testified in court that Oberhansley seemed “nervous” and refused to allow officers to pat him down, according to local station WLKY.
Officers arrested Oberhansley at the scene and found a brass knuckle knife in his pocket.
Another officer testified that she had gone into Blanton’s home and noticed damage to the back door, as if someone had broken into the home. She also noticed blood throughout the house and a tarp with tools on the ground before finding Blanton’s bloody body in a bathtub.
“There was blood everywhere,” she said, according to WAVE.
Investigators also allegedly found a plate, fork and knife and also evidence that Oberhansley had eaten some of Blanton’s organs.
Dr. Darius Arabadjief, a forensic pathologist with the Kentucky Chief Medical Examiner’s Office testified on Wednesday that the majority of Blanton’s brain, heart and part of a lung had been missing from the body, The News and Tribune reports.
Blanton died of sharp force injuries to the face, neck and torso and also had defensive wounds to her hand suggesting she may have tried to fight off her attacker, Arabadjief said.
Prosecutors have said that Blanton was also raped the morning before she died, but defense attorney Brent Westerfeld questioned that belief, asking Arabadjief on cross examination whether there was any evidence of a sexual assault.
Arabadjief said that no evidence had been discovered, but that signs of physical trauma were not always found in sexual assault cases.
Nicole Hoffman, a forensic scientist and analyst at the Indiana State Police laboratory, also took the stand to discuss evidence collected at the scene that had both Blanton and Oberhansley’s DNA, including a knife, frying pan, jigsaw, kitchen tongs, dinner plate, eating utensils and shirt found on the bathroom floor, the paper reports.
Hoffman also testified that seminal fluid was found during an examination of the body and that at least one of the samples matched Oberhansley’s DNA.
Earlier in the trial, Blanton’s friend Tessa Shepherd took the stand to testify that Blanton had told her Oberhansley raped her the previous weekend before she was killed and that she had just gone along with it to “keep the peace,” according to WLKY.
“She was trying to get away from Joseph but did not want to tip him off that she was leaving,” she said.
Westerfeld has asked jurors throughout the trial to consider all sides of the evidence. Oberhansley has continued to maintain his innocence in the slaying.
The trial is expected to resume Thursday.
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