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Released Utah killer now faces cannibal allegations

Released Utah killer now faces cannibal allegations

(File photo)



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JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. — A man convicted of manslaughter and attempted murder in Utah 15 years ago now faces charges of fatally stabbing his girlfriend in Indiana and then mutilating her body, including cooking and eating some of her organs, according to police documents released Monday.

Joseph Oberhansley, 33, of Jeffersonville, appeared in court Monday, where he was formally charged with murder in the death of Tammy Blanton, 46. He also was charged with abuse of a corpse and breaking and entering.

The horrific crime comes more than a decade after a family member of Oberhansley's two West Valley victims predicted that Oberhansley would kill again.

"He's going to get out in five to seven years to do it again," Alfred Irmer said at Oberhansley's sentencing in 2000 in Salt Lake City.

The crime also comes just a little more than a month after Oberhansley's Utah sentence officially ended.

On Dec. 9, 1998, Oberhansley, then 17, shot and killed Irmer's 17-year-old granddaughter, Sabrina Elder, who just days before had given birth to the couple's son. He then shot and wounded his own mother, Brenda Self, and turned the gun on himself. But both Oberhansley and Self lived.

Oberhansley was originally charged with murder, a first-degree felony, and attempted murder, a second-degree felony. Prosecutors allowed him to plead guilty to manslaughter and attempted murder, both second-degree felonies. He was sentenced to one to 15 years in prison on each count. The sentences were ordered to run concurrently. Prosecutors stated at the time that a murder conviction would have been hard to achieve because of Oberhansley's state of mind at the time of the shootings, which was in part influenced by heavy drug use.


"He's going to get out in five to seven years to do it again." Alfred Irmer in 2000

Sentencing guidelines at the time called for Adult Probation and Parole to hold Oberhansley in prison for 88 months. But during his lone parole hearing in 2004, the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole set his release date for 2012, meaning he would serve 13 years at the Utah State Prison.

During his parole hearing in 2004, Oberhansley told the parole board that he felt calmer due to the brain trauma he suffered from shooting himself in the head. The parole board officer conducting the hearing noted the psyche report even referred to his self-inflicted injury as a "partial lobotomy."

Also at the parole hearing, members of Elder's family expressed their anger at what they believed was a light sentence. He also had 15 disciplinary actions during his time behind bars for such things as fighting and possessing drugs, according to corrections officials.

When he was released from prison on July 10, 2012, he had already arranged an interstate compact to Indiana where family members lived. A corrections official said Oberhansley did not have any parole violations.

On Monday, Oberhansley denied the new allegations against him and told Judge Vicki Carmichael he's not the man police say he is, claiming that his name is Zeus Brown, the News and Tribune and The Courier-Journal reported.

"You've got the wrong guy," said Oberhansley, who also told the judge he didn't need an attorney because he is innocent.

Prosecutor Jeremy Mull said he doesn't believe Oberhansley's statements.

There's "no doubt in my mind" he did this, Mull told The Courier-Journal.

According to a probable cause affidavit, police were called to Blanton's home twice last Thursday. The first time was at 2:50 a.m.; Oberhansley was upset he couldn't get inside the home he shared with Blanton because she had changed the locks. Police said they told Oberhansley to leave.

They returned to the home shortly after 10 a.m. after a co-worker reported Blanton hadn't shown up for work. Police said Oberhansley answered the front door and said he didn't know where Blanton was. Police said in the affidavit that they saw what appeared to be a fresh injury to his hand.

Investigators said he had a pocket knife in his back pocket with blood on it. An officer reported seeing blood in several places in the house, then found a large amount of blood in the bathroom with fabric draped over the tub. Another officer lifted the fabric and found Blanton's body, according to the affidavit.

Detectives and a deputy coroner were called to the scene. The deputy coroner said a large portion of the woman's brain and her heart were missing.

Police said Oberhansley initially denied knowing what happened to Blanton's body but later said he broke into the home and into the bathroom where she had locked herself, the affidavit said. He said he struck her several times with a knife and used a jigsaw to cut open her skull, according to the affidavit.

He told police he ate her heart, and parts of her lung and brain, the affidavit states.

He was ordered held without bond last week.

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Pat Reavy
    Associated Press

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