JEFFERSONVILLE — A man facing a murder charge in the death and mutilation of his ex-girlfriend in Jeffersonville more than five years ago has again been found not competent for trial.
Joseph Oberhansley, 38, is accused of raping, killing and consuming parts of 46-year-old Tammy Jo Blanton in September 2014.
An agreement was entered Jan. 2 between defense attorneys and the Clark County prosecutor's office, stipulating that based on two competency evaluations filed in December by psychiatrists, the defendant is to be transported to a state hospital for competency restoration.
"Both court-appointed psychiatric experts concluded that [Oberhansley] lacks the ability to understand the proceedings and assist in the preparation of the defense," the agreement reads, in part.
The reports were ordered by the court after defense attorneys filed in October a renewed suggestion that their client was not competent. An earlier trial in August was declared a mistrial on the first day after a witness testified to things previously determined inadmissible.
"This is the absolute right thing," defense attorney Bart Betteau said Monday. "From the nature of the case itself — the accusations — and just Joseph's behavior both in and out of court, there really is no question that he is incompetent. He can't assist in his defense nor does he really have an understandings to the procedures.
"If Joe is not incompetent, then no one is."
Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull said he agreed to the stipulation to begin the competency restoration process with a hearing to help expedite the case itself. Based on the findings of the psychiatrists, the court would have had to find him incompetent regardless.
"If I had refused to agree to such a thing then the court would have been required to transport him down here and conduct a hearing and make such a finding on the record, which would only have further delayed the case," Mull said.
He added that he does see the case coming to a close eventually.
"Yes I do believe that it will go to trial and I do believe that he will be convicted," Mull said.
Oberhansley, who is currently being held at an Indiana Department of Correction facility, will be transported to Logansport State Hospital for competency restoration as room is made available. He previously spent several months at the hospital in 2018, after being found not competent in late 2017 by Clark County Circuit Court No. 4 Judge Vicki Carmichael.
Oberhansley's competency was determined by staff at the state hospital to be restored in July 2018. But shortly after he was released, his attorneys filed a motion suggesting otherwise.
"Mr. Oberhansley is suspicious, paranoid, uncommunicative and agitated whenever he meets with defense counsel and their investigators," the September 2018 motion reads. It also noted that Oberhansley had told his attorneys he believed they worked for the Devil and were trying to control his thoughts."
He was later found by the court to be competent, and things moved forward with both sides readying for the trial. In June, the court ruled on Oberhansley's request to withdraw the insanity defense, which he had made in opposition to his attorneys' advice. The following month, the state removed the death penalty from the table, based in part of the prosecutor's belief that such a case could be more easily reversed given the information on Oberhansley's mental issues on record.
Defense attorney Brent Westerfeld said Monday that while he does have mental illness, he's not received appropriate medical care for it.
"Its clear that he has serious mental health issues and it's problematic trying to have a trial when someone is not being properly medicated for their mental illness," he said. "I think that's the significant problem here.
"I do think there was an indication when he was being medicated that there was some progress being made in his mental health, but until the authorities and the state properly medicate him, then it's going to continue to be a problem."