STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Judge deliberating change of venue request in Jasper County death case, trial postponed for now

Joseph Bland appeared in court this morning hoping to change the venue of his trial.

Posted: Jan 7, 2020 12:19 PM
Updated: Jan 7, 2020 1:25 PM

RENSSELAER, Ind. (WLFI) — A judge is now deliberating where or when the trial will happen for a high-profile Jasper County death case. 

Joseph 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 say Bland ran over her car with his semi in Oct. 2018. 


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

Bland appeared in court Tuesday morning hoping to change the venue of his trial. Bland believes he will be unable to get a fair trial in Jasper County because of public hostility and outrage over the offense. 

The judge has not yet made a decision on if the venue will be changed. News 18 was told there will not be an additional hearing over the change of venue request, but the judge's decision will be sent out. We do not have an expected date of when. 

Friends of the Deno family don’t think the location of the trial should be moved.

"It happened here, he did the crime here, he should do the time," said Irma Hayes, friend of Melissa Deno. "The family deserves justice. They don't get to run like he did."

Tuesday in court, the defense argued recent actions by Deno’s family, including social media posts and signs displayed on common roadways.

The intersection where the crash happened, at State Road 16 and U.S. 231 in Rensselaer, has been an area for the Deno family to honor Melissa. Since her death, the corner is decorated with pictures, flowers and signs. The defense argued the area could result in prejudice against Bland. 

In response to the argument, the judge said, “Free speech is a right, and it’s also a consequence.” 

The state said, "Just having knowledge of the case does not equate to prejudice."

Another argument presented was an alleged video of the surveillance footage of the crash posted to YouTube. Filings said the defense believed the video was uploaded by the Deno family. News 18 learned in court on Tuesday the video was posted by an employee at Rose Acre Farms. Rose Acre Farms is the source of the video, as the business is near the intersection where the crash happened. 

News 18 also learned the employee who posted the video is a witness in this case. 

The defense argued the video could tamper the jury pool. However, the video will be included in the state's evidence once the trial begins. 

Bland's fiance, Jeanne Penell, took the stand to explain her side of the story since the crash. She does not believe Bland will receive a fair trial in Jasper County. 

Penell argued the posts on the 'Justice for Missy' Facebook page could sway the opinions of others in the case. As she took the stand she said, "Any information they can put out there they post to help their narrative."

Penell emphasized an online scheduled event of Bland's trial, which invited hundreds of people to attend. She also expressed her concern on a post counting down the days until his trial.

The state asked Penell how a post counting down to a jury date would affect anybody. She replied, "I don't know."

Penell went on to claim she and her family have been threatened since the crash. Penell explained she, along with her children and Bland, had to deactivate social media accounts due to threatening messages from strangers.

"We can't just walk out of this courthouse like normal people," she said. 

Bland’s trial was set to begin Jan. 14, but has officially been postponed.

West Lafayette
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 70°
Kokomo
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 64°
Rensselaer
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 59°
Fowler
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 59°
Williamsport
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 66°
Crawfordsville
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 63°
Frankfort
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 64°
Delphi
Clear
65° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 65°
Monticello
Clear
65° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 65°
Logansport
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 64°
Turning Warmer & More Humid, Then Big Cool-Down
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 77565

Reported Deaths: 3105
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion16304733
Lake7840283
Elkhart499287
Allen4103164
St. Joseph368183
Hamilton2941104
Vanderburgh208215
Hendricks1972109
Cass18099
Johnson1800119
Porter139139
Clark133350
Tippecanoe126312
Madison104866
LaPorte95730
Howard93865
Kosciusko87212
Bartholomew84447
Floyd83750
Marshall80123
Monroe77732
Delaware76852
Vigo75213
Dubois71812
Noble70829
Boone70446
Hancock69439
Jackson6065
Warrick60030
Shelby57228
LaGrange56910
Grant53230
Dearborn52228
Morgan49235
Henry46020
Clinton4564
Wayne40210
White38011
Montgomery36321
Lawrence35827
Harrison35524
Decatur34732
Putnam3288
Daviess28420
Miami2792
Scott27810
Jasper2592
Greene25634
Franklin24915
Gibson2434
DeKalb2424
Jennings23212
Ripley2208
Steuben2173
Fayette2057
Carroll2033
Perry18813
Posey1810
Starke1817
Orange17924
Wabash1795
Wells1782
Fulton1742
Jefferson1722
Knox1681
Whitley1606
Tipton15416
Sullivan1521
Washington1481
Clay1415
Spencer1393
Randolph1325
Huntington1303
Newton12110
Adams1202
Owen1101
Jay940
Rush914
Pulaski841
Fountain762
Brown752
Blackford662
Pike660
Ohio656
Benton630
Vermillion610
Parke591
Switzerland560
Martin500
Crawford480
Union410
Warren251
Unassigned0207

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events