Indiana man incompetent again for trial in gruesome killing

Indiana man incompetent again for trial in gruesome killing

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JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (AP) — A southern Indiana man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and eating parts of her body has once again been found incompetent to stand trial in the 2014 slaying, months after his first trial ended in a mistrial.

An agreement between Joseph Oberhansley's defense attorneys and Clark County prosecutors stipulates that he is to be transported to a state hospital for competency restoration, based on two evaluations filed in December by psychiatrists, the News and Tribune reported.

"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, filed Jan. 2, reads in part.

The psychiatrist's reports were ordered by Clark County Circuit Court Judge Vicki Carmichael after defense attorneys filed a renewed suggestion in October that their client was not competent.

Oberhansley, 38, is charged with the 2014 rape and murder of Tammy Jo Blanton, 46, whom he’d been in a relationship with months before her gruesome killing, in her home in the Ohio River city of Jeffersonville, just north of Louisville, Kentucky.

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

Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull said Monday that he agreed to the stipulation to begin the competency restoration process with a hearing to help expedite the case. He said that he foresees the case eventually returning to trial.

"I do believe that he will be convicted," he said.

Defense attorney Brent Westerfeld said Monday that while Oberhansley 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.”

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 that hospital in 2018, after being found not competent in late 2017 by Carmichael.

Oberhansley's competency was determined by staff at the state hospital to be restored in July 2018. But shortly after his release, his attorneys filed a motion suggesting otherwise. Oberhansley was later found by Carmichael to be competent, and both sides began preparing for the trial, which ended in the mistrial.

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