JEFFERSONVILLE — Evidence presented to a jury during the second day of a Clark County murder trial shed more light on what investigators say they found inside the home of the woman found murdered and partially mutilated in her bathtub in 2014.
More than 100 photos of evidence were introduced Monday in the trial of Joseph Oberhansley, charged with murder, rape and burglary in the death of ex-girlfriend Tammy Jo Blanton, 46, whose body was found at her Locust Street home Sept. 11, 2014.
Among the actual items of evidence introduced and photos of other items at the scene were clothing and DNA samples from Oberhansley and Blanton, bloody cloth and paper towels, kitchen knives, tongs and a frying pan with blood, a plate with utensils and what two Jeffersonville police detectives testified was flesh, photos of the crime scene, a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner kit and damage to the back exterior door and bathroom door.
The testimony also provided more details into what police say happened when they went to Blanton’s home that morning on a welfare check, sought by co-workers when she failed to arrive at work on time.
Connie Viers, Mark Lovan and Mike Pavey, Jeffersonville police officers at the time, were among the first to respond between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. that day. They testified that when they knocked, Oberhansley answered, standing about three or four feet back from the screen door; he eventually went outside onto the porch at police request.
Police say the defendant identified himself, but said he didn’t know where Blanton was. He said the black SUV parked in the driveway was his; officers said a VIN check showed it belonged to the victim. A white SUV later identified as Oberhansley’s was found several blocks away from the home.
When Jeffersonville Police Officer Toby Deaton arrived as the fourth responding officer, he saw the first three on the porch with Oberhansley and said he witnessed Oberhansley start to move his right hand toward his back right pocket while backing away to the front door. Deaton said he reacted quickly, restraining the defendant and Oberhansley was soon handcuffed. A foldable knife with a blade and brass knuckles were found in that pocket, Deaton testified. On the knife were blood and hair.
Viers testified she was the first to go inside to check the home, calling for Blanton and searching room by room. In the living room, she saw a pink phone that was later collected for evidence. She noted blood on the light switches and a tarp on the ground floor with various tools laid out. The back door appeared to have been kicked in, she said; it was broken at the frame with the deadbolt still locked.
The bathroom was dark, but there was enough light to see “blood everywhere,” Viers testified. She saw in the bathtub what she described as a “bloody mound” but did not approach and went outside to report her findings. Investigators later identified Blanton’s body in the bathroom.
Officer Pavey and several other officers then entered the house. In the bathroom, Pavey testified he noted blood on the walls, blood on the shower curtain, part of which was covering the bathtub. When he lifted the curtain, he found a “clearly deceased” woman with part of her skull missing. He covered the woman’s body and contacted the Jeffersonville police detective division.
Oberhansley was taken to the Clark County jail in a secured police car — one with a hard plastic partition between the front and back seats — by officer Keith Broady. Broady testified that on the way to the jail, Oberhansley uttered the phrase “the wicked will flee.” In custody, he was placed in a padded cell and when the restraints were removed, began to beat his chest while panting.
First on the stand Monday was Tessa Shepherd, a co-worker of Blanton who said the victim had confided in her about the sexual abuse by the defendant. Shepherd said Blanton had told her the weekend before her death that Oberhansley had held her at the home and repeatedly raped her, after the two had gone to Blanton’s company picnic at Kentucky Kingdom.
Shepherd testified that Blanton had called her that Sunday as a diversion, so she could pack some clothes into her work bag, although Shepherd said she didn’t know that until later and didn’t detect anything in Blanton’s voice to indicate she had undergone abuse over the weekend.
Blanton stayed Monday and Tuesday at another friend’s home, Shepherd testified. On Tuesday, Shepherd said Oberhansley showed up at their workplace. It was the first time Shepherd had seen him in person, but said she recognized his voice from hearing it in the background when she had talked to her friend on the phone.
She said Blanton hadn’t seen Oberhansley arrive on their floor at work and when he tapped her on the shoulder, “It looked like the life went out of her body,” Shepherd said. “She went completely white.”
Blanton and Oberhansley talked briefly in another area before a member of management asked him to leave.
Shepherd said she had talked to her friend between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, the night before she was found dead, after Blanton had her locks changed at her home and went back to the residence. Shepherd said Blanton said Oberhansley had come to get some of his things, but she hadn’t let him in the house.
Police were later called to the home around 3 a.m. when Blanton called 911 to report the defendant beating on her back door and refusing to leave, previous testimony showed. Responding officers said he eventually left after they spoke with him.
When Blanton wasn’t at work on time the next morning, Shepherd said she called her friend’s cell phone from her own but no one answered. She called again, this time from her desk phone. She said a man answered, saying he was Blanton’s brother and that she was at her father’s house. Shepherd called again; this time the man said she had the wrong number. Shepherd said she believed it was Oberhansley’s voice.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Bart Betteau asked Shepherd about the rape allegation. Shepherd said she hadn’t seen any bruises or other obvious marks on her friend that Monday, but that Blanton had told her the sex was forced on her all weekend, and that “she went along with it to keep the peace,” Shepherd said.
Outside the jury’s presence, Betteau said the rape allegation had been mischaracterized and asked the judge to admonish the jury to not consider it as part of the evidence. He also informally asked for a mistrial, never making a formal motion. Clark County Circuit Court No. 4 Judge Vicki Carmichael ruled the testimony admissible.
Proceedings are expected to resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday, and testimony is to continue with Jeffersonville Sgt. Mark Dobson, the state’s 12th witness. Dobson is a detective who documented the crime scene. Four witnesses were called during the first day of testimony Friday.