JEFFERSONVILLE — A forensic pathologist testified during a Clark County murder trial that the more than two dozen sharp force injuries on the victim’s body could have been made with a knife like the one found on the defendant.
Dr. Darius Arabadjief, a forensic pathologist with the Kentucky Chief Medical Examiner’s Office, took the stand Wednesday afternoon as the state’s 14th witness in the fourth day of the trial of Joseph Oberhansley, 39. He’s charged with murder, rape and burglary in the death of ex-girlfriend 46-year-old Tammy Jo Blanton.
The victim’s body was found mutilated at her Locust Street home roughly seven hours after police were called there for a domestic issue with Oberhansley. Police testified that Oberhansley was at the home when her body was found Sept. 11, 2014.
Arabadjief, who was part of the team that performed Blanton’s autopsy, listed her cause of death as sharp force injuries to the face, neck and torso. There were 25 total, but some were considered complex because of overlapping injuries, he said.
For over an hour, he explained the more than dozen autopsy photos, copies of which were given individually to jurors. Ten of the sharp force injuries were to the forehead and frontal scalp, others were to the chest and face. Also noted in the autopsy were contusions to the legs, head area and arms, and defensive wounds on one of Blanton’s hands.
The majority of the brain and heart and part of a lung were missing, he testified.
Defense attorney Brent Westerfeld questioned Arabadjief on cross-examination about what the doctor agreed was “a very violent incident,” in Westerfeld’s words. The attorney then brought into question the lack of evidence of trauma to Blanton’s genital area. Arabadjief said none was found.
“You found no evidence of injuries or sexual assault?” Westerfeld asked.
The doctor answered that this was correct, although he said it’s not always present — in less than half of cases, there is not physical trauma evidence of sexual assault.
At the start of trial Wednesday, Nicole Hoffman, forensic scientist and analyst at the Indiana State Police laboratory in Evansville, testified that multiple pieces of evidence collected in the case contained both the victim’s and defendant’s DNA.
Among the items Hoffman testified to were a knife found in Oberhansley’s possession, a jigsaw, frying pan, kitchen tongs, a dinner plate with eating utensils, a shirt found on the bathroom floor, DNA swabs from Oberhansley’s hands, and an evidence collection kit taken from the victim post mortem.
On samples taken from the frying pan, jigsaw blade and shirt, blood was detected and Blanton’s DNA was present. Oberhansley’s DNA was also present on the frying pan, Hoffman testified.
The knife found on the defendant contained the possible presence of blood, which was undetermined; the plate and eating utensils also contained Blanton’s DNA.
Swabs taken from Oberhansley’s right hand and left palm indicated a mixture of DNA — Oberhansley’s was assumed and Blanton’s was detected.
From an evidence collection kit taken from the victim, Hoffman testified to the possible presence of seminal fluid in multiple areas, and Oberhansley’s DNA was confirmed in at least one of those samples.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Westerfeld questioned the witness on specifics of how DNA analysis works and how long live sperm could be detected in a sample. Referencing text materials, it was established that live sperm can be detected for five to seven days within a body cavity and non-live cells for up to 17 days.
Westerfeld asked if it can prove that sexual abuse occurred.
“Simply because you find seminal material doesn’t establish sexual assault, correct?” Westerfeld asked the scientist.
“Correct,” she answered.
And although the evidence box is checked to indicate the victim and defendant had been in a recent consensual relationship and had lived together, that information has no bearing on how the evidence is tested — it’s for jury purposes, Hoffman said, and was checked before it got into her possession.
“The results I get from the test do not give any information on...how it got there,” Hoffman said.
Earlier in the trial, a friend of Blanton’s testified that the victim had confided in her that Oberhansley had raped her multiple times the weekend before her death that Thursday. Among his charges, Oberhansley is accused of raping her the morning of her death.
Court was expected to resume at 9 a.m. Thursday.
NOTE: While the jury, judges, attorneys, defendant and court and sheriff’s office staff are present in the courtroom, it is closed to the public and to media, but streamed live at https://public.courts.in.gov/incs#/. When there, select Clark County Circuit Court 4.