"No, the killing was not the objective. I just wanted to have the person under my complete control."
It was the 11th of September 2014. A Thursday. Just before 10am that morning, Sabrina Hall called the police to ask them to do a welfare check on her colleague Tammy Jo Blanton. Forty six year old Tammy worked with Sabrina and was due at work that day but when she didn't arrive at the office, Sabrina called her phone and a man answered. The man told Sabrina that he was Tammy's brother and said that she was caring for their father who was unwell. Sabrina did not believe the man and asked police to check on Tammy.
Police arrived at Tammy's house in Jeffersonville, Indiana, United States just after 10 am on the morning of the 11th of September, a few minutes after Sabrina made the call. Police had already been at that same house a few hours earlier. They had responded to a call for assistance made to 911 at 2.52am that morning. Tammy made the call. Tammy reported that her ex boyfriend, Joseph Oberhansley, was outside her house and would not leave. When they arrived at the house, Joseph was outside. He said that his key would not work. When police asked to see his identification, he showed them identification that was listed to a different address. Tammy explained to police that she ended the relationship and had her locks changed and she wanted him to leave. When police asked him to leave, he was annoyed and complained that police always side with women but he told them he would leave. The officers stayed a bit longer after he left to make sure he was gone. Joseph went home and told his mother how annoyed he was about what had taken place at Tammy's house.
Joseph Oberhansley and Tammy Blanton
When police, there were different officers on duty at 10am, went to Tammy's house after the 10am phone call, on foot of the welfare check request, they observed that Tammy's car was in the driveway and when they checked the house, they found signs of forced entry at her back door. A man met them at the front door. He told police his name was Joe and when asked to produce his identification, he told them he did not have it on him. They asked to speak to Tammy and he said that she was not home and he did not know where she was.
The officers ordered him outside to the front of the home and at that point, they saw that his right hand was injured. There was blood on his knuckles. He was searched and a folding knife was found in his pocket. There was blood and hair on the knife.
Police entered Tammy's house. The back door had been broken into. There was blood on several surfaces inside the house. One of the officers said that there was blood everywhere. The bathroom door was damaged. It had been broken into too, the door had been kicked in. They entered the bathroom and that was where they found Tammy.
There was a lot of blood in the bathroom and a large vinyl camping tent draped over the bathtub. Tammy was dead inside the bathtub.
There were numerous injuries to Tammy's body. There were large and deep gashes on Tammy's head, face, neck and chest. There was a large slash across the front of her neck. The front of Tammy's skull had been crushed and a large part of her brain was missing. Police found brain tissue inside the bathtub and in trash cans inside the house. They also found a section of Tammy's removed skull in the bathtub.
Several cuts to Tammy's chest had created a large opening in Tammy's body and her heart was not inside her chest.
Tammy Jo Blanton
A search of the house uncovered more dark and sinister details in relation to the murder. In the kitchen, police found a plate with what appeared to be skull bone and blood on it and a skillet and pair of tongs with blood on the handles was found on top of the stove. What had happened inside the house between 3am and 10am was too horrific for even the police to comprehend.
When police asked the man who referred to himself as Joe if he knew what had happened to Tammy, he said that he did not. He had no idea what had happened. Police determined that he was Tammy's ex boyfriend Joseph Oberhansley. When they questioned him further, he revealed that he returned to Tammy's house that morning after the police left. He parked his car several blocks from Tammy's house so she would not see him and broke in through the back door. He told police that Tammy had locked herself inside the bathroom so he kicked the bathroom door in to force entry into the bathroom. Inside the bathroom, Joseph struck Tammy several times with a knife and when she was dead, he used a jigsaw to cut open her skull. Joseph removed a bit of Tammy's brain and ate it raw. He removed more of her brain and cooked it on the skillet in the kitchen and ate it.
Police asked Joseph what had happened to Tammy's heart and he told them that he ate her heart and also ate part of one of her lungs.
Police located the jigsaw and a jigsaw blade which was covered in blood inside the house.
Joseph was arrested and charged with murder, burglary, abuse of a corpse and rape.
In late 2017, Joseph was deemed unfit to stand Trial. He spent more than a year in Indiana's Logansport State Hospital and after that stay, was deemed competent to stand Trial. His lawyers wanted to use the insanity defense but Joseph did not want to as he believed it would admit guilt and be unlikely to work. His Trial began in August 2019 but a mistrial was soon declared as a witness on the stand, one of Tammy's friends, made reference to Joseph's criminal history. Due to that a mistrial was declared as the rules of evidence do not allow the introduction of prior criminal history unless a special exception is made.
A new Trial was ordered. Prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty and instead seek life in prison without parole if he was convicted in exchange for the exclusion of "mental health defense evidence."
At Joseph's Trial, the Prosecutor, Jeremy Mull, told the Jury in his opening statement that:
“Six years ago that lady met a fate that’s very difficult to describe. And she met that fate at the hands of this man, Joseph Oberhansley.”
The Prosecution warned the Jury that the case they would have to decide on was a difficult case as the evidence they would have to listen to and see were "worse than anything you would see in a horror movie.”
It was the Prosecution's case that Tammy and Joseph had been in a relationship but Tammy ended the relationship and Joseph killed her. They told the Jury that Joseph confessed. In the days before her murder, the Court heard that Tammy had learned some things about him that she didn't like and she wanted him to just collect his belongings from her house and leave. She had packed his belongings into bags and had them ready to leave outside for him to collect.
Tammy Jo Blanton
The Court heard that Tammy was afraid of Joseph. She told her friends that he had sexually abused her the weekend of the 5th of September. Tammy's friends testified that when she first met Joseph, she was happy but things took a dark turn. Sabrina Hall and Tessa Shepherd testified in relation to the fear she told them she felt. Tessa testified that Tammy was afraid that Joseph would show up at her place of work and he did. Even though they worked in a secured building, he managed to get in. They testified that Tammy told them that he sexually abused her the weekend before her murder.
She told them that Joseph held her captive and raped her multiple times. The Court saw the text messages that Tammy sent to Joseph after that weekend:
“You can choose to be in denial about what happened Saturday into Sunday. I won’t be in denial. No one, and I mean no one, gets to terrify me like you did on Sunday. I will never forget it as long as I live.”
Joseph asked her to come to him and she told him to get his belongings out of her home or she would file rape and criminal confinement charges:
“I don’t want to involve the police but if you leave me no choice, that is what I will have to do.”
On the Monday and Tuesday night, the 8th and 9th of September, Tammy stayed with a friend. She didn't want to stay in her own house until the locks had been changed. Her father changed the locks for her and she returned home on the Wednesday. She sent one of her friends a text message that night and told them that she had locked all of her windows and placed a chair under the knob of her back door:
“At the end of the day, I’m taking my life back. I worked too hard to get here. NO ONE WILL TAKE ME DOWN.”
In the early hours of the Thursday morning, Tammy was murdered and mutilated in her own house and the Prosecution told the Jury there was only one man responsible. Joseph Oberhansley.
The Jury heard the horrific details of the injuries that Tammy suffered. They heard that the Autopsy confirmed the cause of death was multiple blunt sharp force traumas to the head, neck and torso and the Medical Examiner testified that the majority of Tammy's heart and a part of one of her lungs had been cut from her body and there was a large section of Tammy's brain missing. Her body had been badly mutilated with more than twenty five sharp force injuries and multiple blunt force injuries.
It was the Defense's case that Joseph's confession had been coerced and he did not kill Tammy. It was their case that two other men were responsible. Joseph's attorney, Bart Bette, asked Jurors to be wary of "emotional evidence" that was not relevant to the facts.
There was only one witness called on behalf of the Defense and that was Joseph. He testified that he confessed because the police kept stating what they wanted him to say and he just repeated what he knew they wanted to hear. He told the Jury that he was suffering from head injuries and only confessed after almost three hours of constant questioning from the police. But he said that the fact of the matter was that he was not the one responsible for Tammy's death. He said that he returned to Tammy's house around 4am and there were “two Black guys” at Tammy's house. When they saw him, they knocked him out and he remained unconscious until the police knocked at the door at 10am that morning:
“I was totally out of my head.”
The Defense argued that his account was reasonable and the Prosecution had not provided enough evidence to prove their case. His lawyer told the Jury:
“You have to be aware that there’s a thought out there that you shouldn’t deliberate on this case or take anything I say seriously. There might be a thought out there that that’s what people want you to do. But you don’t have that luxury. You took an oath.”
The Prosecution disagreed with the Defense's case that two other men may have been involved. They asked the Jury to consider why two men would have brutally murdered Tammy but left Joseph alive:
“We all know they didn’t do that. We all know Joseph Oberhansley killed Tammy Blanton.”
The Jury agreed with the Prosecution after five hours of deliberations and found Joseph guilty of murder and burglary. They found him not guilty of rape.
Joseph was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder conviction and six years on the burglary conviction. The sentences will run concurrently.
As Joseph left the Court, he said:
“I am 100 percent not guilty of these false charges against me. I am disappointed in the decision. I did not kill Tammy Blanton. It was two Black guys.”
After the guilty verdicts, Joseph's prior crimes could be reported on. When he was eighteen years old he shot his seventeen year old girlfriend, Sabrina Elder, dead. She was sitting in his grandmother's house in Utah on the 9th of December 1998 when he just walked in and shot her. She had given birth to their child just a few days before. He also shot his mother in the back and then shot himself in the head. A bullet remains in his frontal lobe as a result of that shot.
Joseph pleaded guilty in 2000 to manslaughter and attempted murder. He spent over ten years in prison in Utah and was released in 2012. Joseph was facing additional felony charges, including one for strangulation, from an incident that took place at a Jeffersonville bar in March 2013. He was on parole at the time of Tammy's murder in relation to the manslaughter case and was out on bail for the 2013 case. A Prosecutor agreed that bail should be set at $5,000 and he posted the required 10%, $500, and was a free man, free to terrorize and kill Tammy.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello
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