Disturbing details revealed in murder trial of couple accused of killing, dismembering Oak Ridge woman
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A couple accused of first-degree murder in the death of an Oak Ridge woman found dismembered in a home in August 2020 appeared in court for a preliminary hearing Friday.
According to Oak Ridge police, 52-year-old Sean Finnegan and his girlfriend, 22-year-old Rebecca Dishman, have been identified as suspects. The two suspects met over social media in 2019, according to officials.
Oak Ridge Police Department Sergeant Marvell Moore was the first witness called to the stand.
Moore recalled being called on August 5, 2020, to investigate an incident in which a female was murdered. Moore said during an interview, Dishman admitted that Finnegan brought 36-year-old Jennifer Paxton to their home.
According to Moore, Finnegan brought Paxton to his home and told Dishman that Paxton would be staying with them for a while. Finnegan said Paxton was homeless and needed a place to live. Investigators said shortly after, Finnegan told Dishman to go to the top of the stairs to make sure his mother, who also lived in the home, didn’t come down the stairs. Dishman told Moore she then heard a loud scream from Paxton and ran back downstairs.
Dishman said she witnessed Finnegan hitting Paxton over the head repeatedly with a baseball bat in the kitchen of the apartment. Dishman said she was instructed by Finnegan to clean up the blood. Finnegan then took Paxton up the stairs and took her into the bathroom where they cleaned her up. The couple allegedly took Paxton to their bedroom where she was chained to the bed by Finnegan. Dishman said Finnegan raped Paxton repeatedly. Dishman also revealed that she participated in the sexual assault.
Paxton was allegedly kept in the home for a period of three to four days, according to Moore. She was given food but restricted from leaving the room. Paxton was forced to use the bathroom in a bucket, investigators said.
During the three to four-day period, Paxton’s health began to deteriorate. Dishman told investigators Finnegan said if her condition continued to worsen they would have to make a decision about killing Paxton.
On the day of the murder, Sergeant Moore said Dishman admitted she and Finnegan unchained Paxton and took her to the bathroom where she was given a shower. Paxton was then taken back to the bedroom where she was instructed to lay face down before Finnegan took a shoestring and strangled Paxton to death. Dishman said blood was coming from Paxton’s mouth and Finnegan forced her to watch the incident.
Paxton was then wrapped in plastic garbage bags and placed into a stand-up freezer, according to Dishman. Investigators said, because Paxton was so tall, her neck and other bones were broken to fit her in the freezer. Dishman also said Paxton’s nose and nipple were cut from her body by Finnegan.
The Knoxville Police Department was able to identify Paxton as the victim after Dishman gave investigators a description which police ran through the Knoxville missing person’s reports.
Dishman alerted authorities to the incident and told them Paxton’s body could be found in the freezer of the home on the 300 block of East Fairview Road. Officials said when they arrived at the home to execute a search warrant, the body was not in the freezer. Finnegan told investigators he didn’t know why someone would make up a lie about there being a body in his home.
Moore said the home was extremely “tidy and neat,” but a blanket protruding from under the bed caught his attention. Moore said he pulled the blanket from under the bed and discovered a wet trash bag and Paxton’s dismembered body completely nude. In a closet downstairs, Moore located chains, padlocks and duck tape.
During an interview with investigators, Finnegan admitted to knowing the body was in his home.
According to Sergeant Moore, Finnegan said he met Paxton when he paid her $20 for a sexual favor. Finnegan said he had paid Paxton $100 to come to his home and participate in sexual relations with him and his girlfriend.
Finnegan said after the three engaged in the sexual activity he went to take a shower and when he returned he found Dishman downstairs with Paxton who was bleeding. Finnegan said the two then Paxton upstairs and chained her to the bed. Finnegan said he panicked and put Paxton’s body in the freezer sometime after Christmas. Police discovered the body in August of 2020.
Officials said Finnegan and Dishman admitted to being responsible for the crimes.
According to Anderson Co. Sheriff’s Office, Dishman and Finnegan are both facing first-degree murder, aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.
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