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DA seeks death penalty against Oak Ridge pair accused of 2019 torture-murder

Sean Finnegan and Rebecca Dishman have been behind bars since August 2020 in the torture-murder of Jennifer Paxton.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — District Attorney General Dave Clark announced Monday his office is seeking the death penalty against a man and woman accused of murdering a homeless woman in Oak Ridge in 2019.

The Seventh Judicial District filed two notices with the Anderson County Criminal Court that it will seek the death sentence in this case, saying the murder was "especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel" because it involved torture.

In August 2020, Sean Finnegan, 53, and Rebecca Dishman, 23, were charged with kidnapping, torturing, raping, killing and dismembering 36-year-old Jennifer Paxton.

Police found Paxton's frozen and partly dismembered body at an East Fairview Road home in Oak Ridge. They think she may have been killed around Christmas 2019.

According to police records obtained by 10News, Dishman and Finnegan lured Paxton to the home under the promise of giving her a place to stay.

She was held against her will, attacked with a baseball bat, tortured and raped before being strangled and left for dead, according to the report.

Records show the victim was chained to a bed and hit in the head with a baseball bat before the suspects engaged in sexual acts with her against her will and eventually strangled her.

Dishman and Finnegan went on to cut off parts of Paxton's body before putting it in a freezer, according to police records.

Records show Finnegan also tried to take the body out of the freezer and hide it under the bed while he attempted to clean the freezer of evidence.

In May 2021, an Anderson County grand jury also indicted the two on two counts of aggravated rape and 18 counts of especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor. The charges imply the child was 8 years old or younger.

The case is scheduled for court on March 4, 2022 in Anderson County Circuit and Criminal Court. Judge Steve Sword from Knox County will preside over the case because Anderson County Judge Ryan Spitzer withdrew due to being involved with the case as a prosecutor before being appointed as judge by Governor Bill Lee.  

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