Change of venue granted in deadly Jasper County hit-and-run case

Joseph Bland's jury trial will be heard elsewhere.

Posted: Feb 19, 2020 3:29 PM

RENSSELAER, Ind. (WLFI) — After more than a month of deliberation, a judge has decided a high-profile Jasper County death case will be tried elsewhere. 

According to online court filings, Joseph Bland's jury trial will be moved to Huntington County, about two hours east of Rensselaer. The three-day trial will begin April 7, with all pre-trial motions and hearings to still be held in Jasper County.


A memorial to Melissa Deno at State Road 16 and U.S. 231

Bland, 44 of Terre Haute, is facing a charge of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death. Forty-year-old Melissa Deno died when prosecutors said Bland ran over her car with his semi in Oct. 2018.

The change of venue was requested in early January after Bland believed he would be unable to get a fair trial in Jasper County. Bland claimed actions by Deno’s family, including social media posts and signs displayed on common roadways, sparked public outrage and hostility. 

Another argument Bland presented was an alleged video of the surveillance footage of the crash posted to YouTube. The video was posted by an employee at Rose Acre Farms. The plant is the source of the video, as the business is near the intersection where the crash happened. 

Bland argued the video could tamper the jury pool. However, the video will be included in the state's evidence once the trial begins. The employee who posted the video is a witness in this case.

In court, Bland said he believes the media is portraying him in a certain way and putting out false information. News 18 has tried multiple times to get a comment, but it has never been accepted. 

During a court hearing, Bland's fiancé claimed she and her family have been threatened since the crash. 

Deno was killed on Oct. 10, 2018 at the intersection of U.S. 231 and State Road 16. Court documents say a witness saw Deno's car hit and drive under a semi. The witness said he tried to flag down the tractor driver. He then explained the semi appeared to slow to a stop after the crash, but then kept driving. Deno died at the scene.

Prosecutors said the surveillance video from Rose Acre Farms shows the semi driving on State Road 16 and approaching the U.S. 231 intersection. The semi then begins to slow down, but allegedly does not make a complete stop at the intersection. Documents state that the car passed completely through the underside of the trailer.

After a statewide search for the semi, Bland was identified by his trucking company. The semi was found just two days after the crash in East St. Louis.

The Jasper County Sheriff's Office had originally sought a charge of reckless homicide, however it was reduced by then-county prosecutor Christine Bogan. Bogan resigned on Nov. 30, 2018 prior to the end of her term. Current prosecutor Jacob Taulman has since taken over the case.

News 18 has reached out to Bland's attorney and Taulman. Neither were immediately available for comment. 

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