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Tennessee To Seek Death Penalty Against Couple In Woman's Torture, Rape And Murder

The couple charged in the brutal 2019 murder of Jennifer Gail Paxton in Tennessee could face the death penalty if convicted.

By Constance Johnson
Rebecca Dishman Sean Finnegan

Tennessee prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against a man and woman charged with the gruesome torture, rape and murder of 36-year-old Jennifer Gail Paxton in 2019.

Anderson County District Attorney Dave Clark notified the court on Monday that he plans to seek the death penalty against Sean Finnegan and Rebecca Dishman if they are convicted, according to WVLT.

“Once a Notice of Intent to Seek Sentence of Death has been filed in a case, special procedures are initiated in the court case,” Clark said according to the station. “Among those is the appointment of a death penalty qualified attorney for each defendant and the right to a second attorney.”

The pair are also charged with kidnapping, abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence and exploitation of a child. Their trial is scheduled for later this year on March 4.

Both have pled not guilty and have been held at the Anderson County Jail in Clinton, Tennessee since their arrest.

In addition to being tortured, police said Paxton was denied food and medical care.

Police found Paxton’s body in the home that Finnegan and Dishman shared in August of 2020. They said that the crimes that led to her death occurred sometime after December 23, 2019, according to the Oak Ridger.

Police said the couple lured Paxton to their home by promising her a place to stay and paying her $100 to have sexual relations, but once she was inside, she became their prisoner and was not allowed to leave.

Paxton was chained to a bed, shackled with a dog collar and her arms were bound with zip ties, according to warrants reviewed by the Oak Ridger.

She was hit on the head with a baseball bat and arms to “incapacitate” her.

“Once incapacitated, [Dishman and Finnegan] repeatedly raped the victim before finally using a ligature to strangle the victim and cause her to die,” Oak Ridge Police Department Sgt. A. Marvell Moore said in the warrants.

He also said that, after strangling Paxton, the couple cut off a part of at least one of her breasts and nose and broke her bones and ligaments so that her body would fit inside a standup freezer.  

Moore said that, once Finnegan became aware of an investigation, he moved Paxton’s decomposing body out of the freezer and hid it under his bed.

He also said that Dishman admitted to using beach and a Swiffer to clean up the blood and other bodily fluids from around the house — including the living room, bedroom, and bathroom.

Clark said that one of the reasons he was seeking the death penalty was because the crime was “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel in that it involved torture or serious physical abuse beyond what was necessary to produce death." 

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