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Judge sets January 2024 trial date for death penalty case in Anderson County

Rebecca Dishman and Sean Finnegan are accused of killing Jennifer Paxton and leaving her in the freezer for months.

CLINTON, Tenn. — Rebecca Dishman and Sean Finnegan appeared in Anderson County Criminal Court, Friday for a status hearing in a first-degree murder case, where both face the death penalty. 

Prosecutors said Dishman and Finnegan murdered Jennifer Paxton in December 2019 and kept her in their freezer until police discovered the body in August 2020. 

The Anderson County District Attorney General charged Dishman and Finnegan with first-degree murder, aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, abuse of corpse, and tampering with evidence, according to a release. 

Tennessee Senior Judge Thomas J. Wright will preside over the case. Judge Wright's office is in Greeneville, where he is a retired Circuit Court Judge. 

Knox County Judge Steve Sword was designated as the Judge in the case, but recused himself because of "many cases pending in the Criminal Court, Division 1, of Knox County." 

Judge Wright scheduled the first motion hearing for June 3, 2022. After a series of motion hearings, Judge Wright scheduled the trial date for January 2024. 

Kit Rodgers, one of the lawyers assigned to represent Finnegan said it is normal for a judge to schedule a death penalty trial so far in the future. 

"It's the only charge they can put you to death," said Rodgers. "The challenge is making sure that we're doing everything we can to present the best defense and defend our client." 

Rodgers, a Knoxville-based lawyer, is representing another death penalty case in Chattanooga. He said his job is to make sure the state is doing its job properly. 

"They're just allegations at this point. He's plead not guilty," said Rodgers. "Our job is to make them do their job." 

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