The Supreme Court of Indiana ruled against a man who appealed his murder conviction and life sentence for stabbing and killing his ex-girlfriend and eating her body parts in 2014.
The high court returned the opinion Wednesday, May 17. Joseph Albert Oberhansley appealed the verdict and sentence on the argument that the jury “failed to determine that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances” and the sentence was harsh due to mental illness.
The aggravating circumstances related to Oberhansley killing his ex-girlfriend Tammy Jo Blanton while committing burglary and later dismembering her, whereas the mitigating circumstances say Oberhansley “acted under extreme mental disturbance and that mental illness impaired his capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the law.”
He was convicted of murder and burglary in September 2020 but acquitted of rape.
Oberhansley was initially ruled incompetent to stand trial twice, and when he was deemed competent again, he said he would use the insanity defense. Prosecutors and his attorneys reached an agreement, however, that said prosecutors would seek life without parole over the death penalty if he withdrew the insanity plea. His first trial ended in a mistrial and a second trial failed after they couldn’t convene a jury.
According to the opinion, Oberhansley struggled with mental illness throughout his life, especially after he became a father at age 17. Shortly after the mother of his child gave birth, he fatally shot his then-girlfriend and shot his own mother but did not kill her. He reportedly shot himself in the head and caused severe brain trauma. He pleaded guilty to attempted murder and manslaughter in 2000 and was released on parole 12 years later.
He continued to have run-ins with the law after moving to Indiana when he got out of prison. He and Blanton started dating, and in June 2014, he moved in with her. Oberhansley reportedly told people he was a god and referred to himself as Zeus.
In September 2014, he reportedly assaulted her and she broke up with him via text. She told him to get his belongings because she planned on changing the locks. On Sept. 11, 2014, Oberhansley reportedly tried getting in the home, and Blanton called the police because he reportedly attempted to kick down her door. He eventually left, but the next day, she never showed up for work.
Blanton’s co-worker called her, but a man answered the phone pretending to be Blanton’s brother even thought the co-worker recognized Oberhansley’s voice. Police arrived to conduct a welfare check and found Oberhansley with a brass knuckle in his pocket that had hair and blood on it. The officer went inside the home and found “blood everywhere” and a “bloody mound” in the bathtub.
Police discovered Blanton’s body in the bathtub hidden under a shower curtain. According to the court documents, “There was a hole in Blanton’s head and brain tissue was falling out. Part of her skull lay by her knees.”
Blood appeared on different cooking utensils and tools and police found “body tissues” in a trash can under the sink.
Blanton suffered 25 sharp force injuries, including eight stab wounds.
Oberhansley later admitted to police he ate part of Blanton’s brain and her heart, which had “demons coming out.”
The Indiana Supreme Court called Oberhansley’s actions “extreme” and “beyond horrendous.”