An evaluation at Ridgeview Psychiatric Hospital has been ordered for a 52-year-old man charged with murder, rape, kidnapping, and abuse of a corpse in a series of gruesome crimes allegedly committed against a 36-year-old woman in a home in east Oak Ridge between December 2019 and August 2020.
The evaluation was ordered for Sean Finnegan in Anderson County General Sessions Court in Oak Ridge on Friday. The evaluation was recommended by Finnegan’s attorney, who was able to show why it should be conducted, Anderson County General Sessions Court Judge Roger Miller said in the order.
Finnegan is represented by Kathy Kroeger, a public defender in the Seventh Judicial District in Anderson County.
The evaluation by Ridgeview is expected to include Finnegan’s competency to stand trial and his mental capacity at the time he allegedly committed the crimes against Jennifer Gail Paxton of Knoxville. It is also expected to include an IQ test and an evaluation of Finnegan’s ability to assess his conduct.
The results of the evaluation will be reported to Kroeger, the court, and prosecutors. An evaluation date hasn’t been set yet, according to Anderson County court records.
It is not unusual for defendants charged with homicide to seek a psychiatric evaluation. The results are usually not available to the public.
Finnegan and his co-defendant, Rebecca Dishman, have status updates set for October 27 in Anderson County General Sessions Court. The status updates could include information about evaluations for both defendants. On Tuesday, defense attorney Paul Sexton said Dishman has requested an evaluation.
Finnegan and Dishman are both being held at the Anderson County Detention Facility in Clinton. Bond for both has been set at $1 million.
Miller, the judge, declined a motion to reduce Dishman’s bond on Tuesday, and Brian Gilliam, assistant district attorney general in the Seventh Judicial District, said the state of Tennessee could consider the death penalty in the “especially heinous” murder of Paxton. But no decision has been made yet, Gilliam told Miller on Tuesday, and he is not the one that makes those decisions.
Paxton was allegedly tortured, raped, and strangled, and her body was allegedly cut and broken before being stuffed into a freezer in the home on East Fairview Road, off Florida Avenue.
Finnegan has been charged with five felonies after the Oak Ridge Police Department responded to a homicide report at the home on Wednesday night, August 5, and found Paxton’s body during a search early Thursday, August 6. The five felony charges against Finnegan are first-degree murder, aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence.
Dishman has also been charged with five felonies: first-degree murder, aggravated sexual battery, aggravated kidnapping, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence.
Arrest warrants filed for Finnegan and Dishman said they lured Paxton to the home with the promise of a place to stay.
But once there, Paxton became the victim of a series of gruesome crimes, according to the warrants, which were filed by Oak Ridge Police Department Sergeant Marvell Moore.
Paxton was chained to a bed and shackled with a dog collar, said the warrants, which were filed in Anderson County General Sessions Court. She was struck on the head and an arm with a baseball bat so she wouldn’t resist or try to escape the attacks, and her arms were bound with zip ties, the warrants said.
Once she was incapacitated, Finnegan and Dishman repeatedly raped her before strangling her, causing her to die, the warrants said.
Paxton was deprived of food and medical care, the warrants said.
After she was killed, Finnegan and Dishman cut off body parts and broke ligaments and bones in order to put her body into a stand-up freezer, the warrants said. Moore called the mistreatment of the corpse “shocking and offensive.”
When Finnegan knew there would be an investigation, he moved the frozen decomposing body from the freezer and hid it under his bed, the warrants said. He allegedly cleaned the inside of the freezer to remove evidence.
Dishman, meanwhile, used “bleach and a swiffer” to clean up blood and other bodily fluids from the living room floors and bedroom floor, and she used bleach and the bathroom shower to clean the victim’s body of evidence, the warrants said.
The warrants said both Finnegan and Dishman admitted to their crimes after being read their Miranda rights.
It’s not clear when the alleged crimes occurred. The affidavits said they occurred on or after December 23, 2019.
An obituary for Paxton said she has seven children, and she is survived by her mother, a brother, and grandmother. There was a receiving of friends and funeral for Paxton on Saturday, August 15, and a graveside service and interment on Sunday.
Anyone with information that may help investigators is asked to call ORPD at (865) 425-4399. Crime tips can also be submitted online at http://oakridgetn.gov/department/ORPD/Home. Information can be given anonymously.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
You can contact John Huotari, owner and publisher of Oak Ridge Today, at (865) 951-9692 or [email protected]
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