Lawyers: Man accused in ex-lover's killing not fit for trial

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JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Attorneys for a southern Indiana man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and eating parts of her body are seeking psychiatric competency evaluations for their client, whose first murder trial ended in a mistrial.

Joseph Oberhansley, 38, is charged with the 2014 rape and murder Tammy Jo Blanton, 46, whom he'd been in a relationship with months before her gruesome death.

Oberhansley's lawyers, Brent Westerfeld, Bart Betteau and Nick Karaffa, filed a motion Oct. 22 stating that the Jeffersonville man has "deteriorated mentally and relapsed" over the past several months and noting that he suffers from a psychotic disorder with symptoms of delusions and hallucinations, the News and Tribune reported. But unless Clark County Circuit Court Judge Vicki Carmichael agrees that he is not competent, Oberhansley's next trial in scheduled to begin in February.

This is not the first time a question has been raised about Oberhansley's mental status, whether ahead of trial proceedings or at the time investigators say he killed Blanton.

In October 2017, Carmichael found Oberhansley not competent to stand trial and he was moved to Logansport State Hospital the following January for competency restoration, the newspaper reported. The motion also indicated that he was treated with anti-psychotic medication while there.

In July 2018, Oberhansley was determined to have regained competency, and arrangements were made to proceed with the trial.

By that September, his lawyers had filed another motion suggesting their client was not competent. However, Carmichael ruled last November that he was competent, based on the case reports of three mental health professionals, and the defendant's previous words and actions in the courtroom.

Lawyers on both sides of the case filed an agreement that a competency hearing would not be needed, as the judge had ruled based on the mental health professionals' files.

Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull noted that he wants to see the five-year-old case tried as soon as possible.

In June, Carmichael ruled that Oberhansley could reject a planned insanity defense, a request he made to the court on his own against the judgment of his lawyers.

But in early July, Mull withdrew the death penalty in the case, instead signaling an intent to seek life without parole if he is convicted.

A mistrial was declared in August on the first day of testimony when a witness defied court orders and discussed Oberhansley's past drug use and prison time.


Information from: News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind.,

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