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  • Since 1977, the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney has filed 7 murder cases seeking a death sentence:

    State of Indiana v. Joseph Albert Oberhansley
    (10C04-1409-MR-001)

    Court: Clark Circuit Court #4 Judge Vicki L. Carmichael

    Date of Crime: September 11, 2014

    Defense Attorneys: Brent Westerfeld & Michael McDaniel

    Prosecutors: Jeremy Mull

    Charges: Count I: Murder (IC 35-42-1-1), Count II: Burglary (Level 4 Felony) (IC 35-43-2-1), Count III: Rape (Level 3 Felony) (IC 35-42-4-1), Count IV: Request for Death Sentence (IC 35-50-2-9).

    Aggravating Circumstances Alleged: (1) Intentional murder during commission of Burglary (IC 35-50-2-9(b)(1)(B)), (2) Intentional murder during commission of Rape (IC 35-50-2-9(b)(1)(F)), and (3) Dismemberment of murder victim (IC 35-50-2-9(b)(10).

    Victim: Tammy Jo Blanton, age 46

    On September 11, 2014 Tammy Jo Blanton was found dead in the bathroom of her home in downtown Jeffersonville. An autopsy later revealed that the cause of death was multiple blunt sharp force traumas to the head, neck and torso. The medical examiner also confirmed that the majority of the heart and a part of the lungs had been cut away from her body. A large section of the brain was also missing. The Defendant, Joseph Albert Oberhansley, was arrested at the scene.

    Trial: Scheduled for Jury Trial on August 2, 2016.


    State of Indiana v. Richard Carley Hooten, Jr.
    (10C04-1303-MR-000002)

    Court: Clark Circuit Court #4 Judge Vicki L. Carmichael

    Date of Crime: 03-02-13

    Date of Guilty Plea: 05-19-14

    Defense Attorneys: Brent Westerfeld & Andrew Adams

    Prosecutors: Steven D. Stewart & Jeremy Mull

    Charges: Murder, Rape (Class B Felony), Criminal Deviate Conduct (Class B Felony), Habitual Offender

    Aggravating Circumstances: (1) Intentional Murder During Course of Rape, (2) Intentional Murder During Course of Criminal Deviate Conduct, (3) Murder While on Felony Probation

    Victim: Tara Rose Willenborg, age 17

    The body of 17 year old Tara Willenborg was found on the bedroom floor of her apartment at Cambridge Square in Clarksville, with massive bruising to her upper chest and a Subway apron tied around her neck. She lived at the apartment with her fiancÚ, who arrived home from work after midnight to find her body. She had just started a new job at Subway.

    Richard Hooten lived across the hallway from her. Hooten was a registered sex offender, having been convicted of Rape in Georgia, where he received a 15 year sentence. He had also been convicted of Assault and Escape in Kentucky, where he also served prison time. An arrest warrant was outstanding for his failure to register as a sex offender. Hooten had gone to a local bar with friends that night, but had left early and alone, then returned to the apartment. After being advised of his constitutional rights, Hooten admitted that he had forcibly raped and strangled to death Tara Willenborg. DNA testing on semen found at the scene confirmed his statements.

    On May 19, 2014 Hooten pled guilty to Murder, Rape, Criminal Devate Conduct, and admitted he was a Habitual Offender pursuant to a "Statement of Plea Agreement to Ensure that the Defendant is Never Released from Prison." With the recommendation of the victim's family, he was sentenced by Judge Vicki L. Carmichael to consecutive terms of Life Imprisonment with absolutely no possibility of parole on Count I, 20 years imprisonment on Count II enhanced to 50 years as a Habitual Offender, and to 20 years imprisonment on Count III.


    State of Indiana v. Zachariah Melcher
    (10C01-0504-MR-038)

    Court: Clark Circuit Judge Daniel F. Donahue

    Date of Crime: 04-16-05

    Date of Guilty Plea: 08-03-06

    Defense Attorneys: Jeffrey D. Stonebraker, J. Christopher Sturgeon

    Prosecutors: Steven D. Stewart, William C. Grimes

    Charges: Murder, Murder, Murder, Habitual Offender

    Aggravating Circumstances: (1) Murder of Child Under 12 Years of Age, (2) Commission of Multiple Murders, (3)Murder of Pregnant Woman Intentionally Killing a Viable Fetus, (4) Murder While on Felony Probation

    Victim: Christian Melcher (23 years), Jaiden Melcher (11 months), Unborn Viable Fetus

    On April 22, 2005, the decomposing bodies of 23 year old Christian Melcher and 11 month old Jaiden Melcher were discovered stuffed inside a plastic storage container in her home, located at 628 East Maple Street in Jeffersonville. A plastic bag covered the head of the small child. An autopsy later revealed that Christian Melcher died of strangulation or asphyxiation. The child died of suffocation or asphyxiation. In addition, Christian was found to be eight months pregnant, carrying a viable fetus able to live outside the mother's womb.

    Zachariah Melcher, age 27, was the husband of Christian Melcher and the father of Jaiden Melcher, and lived at the home at 628 East Maple Street in Jeffersonville. He was previously convicted of Burglary (Class B Felony) on May 22, 1997 in the Floyd County Circuit Court, and was released on supervised probation on September 19, 2002. After being advised of his constitutional rights, Zachariah Melcher admitted that he had murdered his wife and child and stuffed them into a plastic storage container seven days earlier.

    On August 3, 2006 Melcher pled guilty to 3 Counts of Murder pursuant to a "Statement of Plea Agreement to Ensure that the Defendant is Never Released from Prison." With the recommendation of the victim's family, he was sentenced by Judge Daniel F. Donahue to consecutive terms of Life Imprisonment with absolutely no possibility of parole on Count I, Life Imprisonment with absolutely no possibility of parole on Count II, and to a fixed term of 65 years imprisonment on Count III.


    State of Indiana v. Theodore Helfenbein
    (10C01-9104-CF-054)

    Court: Clark Circuit Court Judge Daniel F. Donahue

    Date of Crime: 04-20-91

    Date of Trial: 04-15-92 to 04-24-92

    Defense Attorneys: Jeffrey D. Stonebraker & Vicki Carmichael

    Prosecutors: Steven D. Stewart

    Charges: Murder, Possession of Sawed-Off Shotgun (Class D Felony), Possesion of Handgun (Class A Misdemeanor), Habitual Offender

    Aggravating Circumstances: Previous Murder Conviction, Child Victim less than 12 years of age

    Victim: Brian Helfenbein (age 10)

    The defendant was 48 years old from Cicero, Ill. After his wife was arrested for threatening a teacher, the defendant fled with their 10 year old son to the home of his brother in Peru, Indiana. He then left, heading for his mother's home in Arkansas. In route, he changed his mind and headed back on I-65 to Cicero. He stopped at the Memphis Truck Stop and shot his son 5 times with a .25 caliber pistol while he was sleeping. The defendant then drove to Scottsburg, called the police and turned himself in. The defendant admitted he had shot his son, claiming basically that the world was a terrible place and he did not want his son to have to grow up living a life of misery, particularly in the ghettos of Cicero. Other weapons and a sawed-off shotgun were found in the car.

    At trial the defendant asserted an insanity defense and testified extensively. The defendant was convicted of murdering a soldier in Florida in 1962. He later escaped and served a total of 11 years in Florida prisons. The defendant testified that he wanted to receive the death penalty.

    The defendant was convicted of all counts. The jury unanimously recommended a death sentence. Nevertheless, Clark Circuit Court Judge Daniel F. Donahue sentenced the defendant to the maximum term, 94 years imprisonment, on May 26, 1992. The defendant's anticipated release date is April 2038. He will be 95 years old.


    State of Indiana v. James Kenneth Utley
    (73C01-8806-CF-004)

    Court: Shelby Circuit Court Judge Charles D. O'Connor
    (Venued from Clark to Shelby County)

    Date of Crime: 02-18-88

    Date of Trial: 01-31-89 to 03-02-89

    Defense Attorneys: Michael McDaniel

    Prosecutors: Jerome F. Jacobi

    Charges: Murder (2 counts), Burglary (Class A Felony)

    Aggravating Circumstances: Multiple murders, Intentional Murder during commission of Burglary

    Victims: Karen Smith (age 26), Jacqueline Smith (age 3)

    Appeal: Utley v. State, 589 N.E.2d 232 (Ind. 1992)

    The victims were discovered in their home on Cole Road near New Washington in the afternoon, both shot with a .22 between the eyes. The rear door was unlocked and their car was gone. The car was later discovered locked with the keys gone several miles away. A man fitting the defendant's description was identified by neighbors near both scenes near the time of the murders. A search warrant of the defendant's home uncovered a hidden .22 caliber handgun that he said had been stolen. A ballistics expert testified that the gun appeared to be the same gun used to commit the murders. A prisoner testified that the defendant had admitted committing the murders while he was "high." The defendant denied the murders and did not testify at trial.

    The defendant was convicted of all charges after only 2 hours of deliberations. The jury was unable to unanimously agree on a death sentence. Shelby Circuit Court Judge Charles D. O'Connor sentenced the defendant to the maximum term on all counts, 170 years imprisonment, on April 18, 1989. The defendant's anticipated release date is February 2073. He will be 107 years old.


    State of Indiana v. Latine Marie Gordon Davidson
    (85-CR1-35)

    Court: Clark Superior Court #1 Judge Clementine B. Barthold

    Date of Crime: 07-21-83 & 01-04-85

    Date of Trial: 09-23-86 to 11-06-86

    Defense Attorneys: Michael Forsee & Anne Coffman

    Prosecutors: Steven D. Stewart

    Charges: Murder (2 counts)

    Aggravating Circumstances: Multiple murders,
    Victim Less than 12 years old

    Victims: Shaccara Dayann Gordon & Rodriguez Sanchez Escabar Felicciones

    Appeal: Davidson v. State, 558 N.E.2d 1077 (Ind. 1990)

    The defendant was a 21 year old mother of four, convicted of murdering her first two by drowning them in the bathtub at her home on Rhonda Drive and Riddle Street in Jeffersonville. The drownings were committed at different times, 1 1/2 years apart, when each victim was approximately 14 months old. No charges were brought until the death of the second child, and both cases were joined for trial.

    In both cases, the child was heavily insured at the time of the drownings, with the defendant as beneficiary. 48 hours before the second drowning, the defendant solicited a $40,000 life insurance policy on the child. The defendant gave wildly conflicting statements to the police, to the Welfare Dept., and to the Grand Jury, but basically alleged that both deaths were accidental. Neither child had any trauma to the body and medical experts agreed that it would be next to impossible for the child to drown accidentally without such trauma.

    The defendant was convicted of both murders. The jury was unable to unanimously agree on a death sentence. Clark Superior Court Judge Clementine B. Barthold sentenced the defendant to the maximum term, 120 years imprisonment, on December 2, 1986. The defendant's anticipated release date is June 2065. She will be 80 years old.


    State of Indiana v. Russell Ernest Boyd
    (82-CR-27)


    Court: Clark Circuit Court Judge Clifford H. Maschmeyer

    Date of Crime: 08-27-82

    Date of Trial: 08-23-83 to 09-12-83

    Defense Attorneys: Michael Forsee & Charles G. Read

    Prosecutors: Jerome F. Jacobi & Steven D. Stewart

    Charges: Murder, Felony Murder, Burglary (Class B Felony)

    Aggravating Circumstances: Intentional Murder during commission of Burglary

    Victim: Judy Falkenstein

    Appeal: Boyd v. State, 494 N.E.2d 284 (Ind. 1986)

    The victim was a 30 year old housewife who was found nude, beaten, and strangled in the bedroom of her home on West Loma Vista Drive in Jeffersonville. Her body was discovered on a weekday afternoon by her 10 year old daughter. Various valuables and cash from the home were found in the possession of the defendant, and several acquaintances placed him in the neighborhood at the time of the murder. The defendant first denied ever being in the area, but later admitted to breaking into the home 3 days before the murder, and admitted going back to the home on the day of the murder. He claimed to have seen the victim's body in the bedroom, and ran out of the house after he got scared.

    The defendant was convicted of all charges. The jury recommended a death sentence. Clark Circuit Court Judge Clifford H. Maschmeyer sentenced the defendant to death on October 4, 1983.

    In 1993, Special Judge Robert L. Bennett set aside the death sentence on the grounds that the defense attorneys were ineffective in failing to present mitigating circumstances on the defendant's behalf. The defendant entered into an agreement and with the recommendation of the victim's family, was sentenced to an 80 year term of imprisonment, the maximum allowed under the statutes. His anticipated release date is August 2022. He will be 64 years old.


    HISTORICAL:

    State of Indiana v. Edward Coffin and Toots Long

    On June 4, 1934 Scott County Deputy Sheriff Harold Amick was shot to death while looking for chicken thieves near Underwood. Deputy Amick had mistakenly confronted a group of men who were on the run from an earlier shooting in Seymour. Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Clyde F. Crooks, sought the death penalty by Indictment for the triggerman, Edward Coffin. A jury trial began on June 8, 1934, with Prosecutor Crooks presenting 26 witnesses. Both Coffin and his accomplice, Toots Long, were represented by pauper attorney, Edward Dunlevy, and found guilty of First Degree Murder the next day. On June 9, 1934 Clark County Circuit Judge, George C. Kopp, sentenced Coffin to death and Long to life in prison. On October 9, 1934, 127 days after the murder of Harold Amick, 22 year old Edward Coffin was executed in the electric chair at the Indiana State Prison at Michigan City, Indiana. He is the only person to have been sentenced to death in Clark County and executed this century. [Information obtained through court documents and newspaper accounts in The Evening News]



  • Message from Prosecuting Attorney
  • Clark County Cases
  • Current Indiana Death Row
  • Indiana Death Row 1977 - 2014
  • Indiana Executions Since 1900
  • Indiana Death Row 2013 Book
  • Indiana Death Penalty Laws
  • U.S. Executions Since 1976
  • Methods of Execution
  • 1000+ Death Penalty Links


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