Death penalty decision expected in January

Sean Finnegan, one of two defendants in a series of gruesome alleged crimes in Oak Ridge in December 2019, including murder, rape, and kidnapping, is pictured above in a mugshot from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.

 

Rebecca Dishman, one of two defendants in a series of gruesome alleged crimes in Oak Ridge in December 2019, including murder, rape, and kidnapping, is pictured above in a mugshot from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.

 

CLINTON—A decision could be announced in January about whether to seek the death penalty for two Oak Ridge defendants charged with three counts of first-degree murder each in the gruesome kidnapping, rape, and murder of a 36-year-old woman.

The victim, Jennifer Gail Paxton, was found during a search of a home on East Fairview Road on August 5, 2020, after the Oak Ridge Police Department responded to a report of a possible homicide. Paxton had allegedly been lured to the home with the promise of a place to stay but, once there, became the victim of a series of gruesome crimes, according to arrest warrants filed by Oak Ridge Police Department Sergeant Marvell Moore. She was allegedly kidnapped, tortured, raped, strangled, and her body stuffed into a freezer, according to the warrants.

The man and woman charged in Paxton’s death are Sean Shannon Finnegan, 54, and Rebecca Elizabeth Dishman, 23. They have both been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and 10 other charges, including aggravated rape and aggravated kidnapping. A prosecutor told a judge last year that the two could face the death penalty for the “especially heinous” murder. Both defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Finnegan and Dishman are charged in a separate case with aggravated rape of a child. A conviction in that case would result in an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole, Anthony Craighead, deputy district attorney general in the Seventh Judicial District in Anderson County, told Judge Steven Sword.

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Sean Finnegan, one of two defendants in a series of gruesome alleged crimes in Oak Ridge in December 2019, including murder, rape, and kidnapping, is pictured above in a mugshot from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.

 

Rebecca Dishman, one of two defendants in a series of gruesome alleged crimes in Oak Ridge in December 2019, including murder, rape, and kidnapping, is pictured above in a mugshot from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.

 

CLINTON—A decision could be announced in January about whether to seek the death penalty for two Oak Ridge defendants charged with three counts of first-degree murder each in the gruesome kidnapping, rape, and murder of a 36-year-old woman.

The victim, Jennifer Gail Paxton, was found during a search of a home on East Fairview Road on August 5, 2020, after the Oak Ridge Police Department responded to a report of a possible homicide. Paxton had allegedly been lured to the home with the promise of a place to stay but, once there, became the victim of a series of gruesome crimes, according to arrest warrants filed by Oak Ridge Police Department Sergeant Marvell Moore. She was allegedly kidnapped, tortured, raped, strangled, and her body stuffed into a freezer, according to the warrants.

The man and woman charged in Paxton’s death are Sean Shannon Finnegan, 54, and Rebecca Elizabeth Dishman, 23. They have both been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and 10 other charges, including aggravated rape and aggravated kidnapping. A prosecutor told a judge last year that the two could face the death penalty for the “especially heinous” murder. Both defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Finnegan and Dishman are charged in a separate case with aggravated rape of a child. A conviction in that case would result in an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole, Anthony Craighead, deputy district attorney general in the Seventh Judicial District in Anderson County, told Judge Steven Sword.

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Sean Finnegan, one of two defendants in a series of gruesome alleged crimes in Oak Ridge in December 2019, including murder, rape, and kidnapping, is pictured above in a mugshot from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.

Note: This story was last updated at 2:15 p.m.

CLINTON—A decision could be announced in January about whether to seek the death penalty for two Oak Ridge defendants charged with three counts of first-degree murder each in the gruesome kidnapping, rape, and murder of a 36-year-old woman.

Sean Finnegan, one of two defendants in a series of gruesome alleged crimes in Oak Ridge in December 2019, including murder, rape, and kidnapping, is pictured above in a mugshot from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.

 

Rebecca Dishman, one of two defendants in a series of gruesome alleged crimes in Oak Ridge in December 2019, including murder, rape, and kidnapping, is pictured above in a mugshot from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.

 

CLINTON—A decision could be announced in January about whether to seek the death penalty for two Oak Ridge defendants charged with three counts of first-degree murder each in the gruesome kidnapping, rape, and murder of a 36-year-old woman.

The victim, Jennifer Gail Paxton, was found during a search of a home on East Fairview Road on August 5, 2020, after the Oak Ridge Police Department responded to a report of a possible homicide. Paxton had allegedly been lured to the home with the promise of a place to stay but, once there, became the victim of a series of gruesome crimes, according to arrest warrants filed by Oak Ridge Police Department Sergeant Marvell Moore. She was allegedly kidnapped, tortured, raped, strangled, and her body stuffed into a freezer, according to the warrants.

The man and woman charged in Paxton’s death are Sean Shannon Finnegan, 54, and Rebecca Elizabeth Dishman, 23. They have both been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and 10 other charges, including aggravated rape and aggravated kidnapping. A prosecutor told a judge last year that the two could face the death penalty for the “especially heinous” murder. Both defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Finnegan and Dishman are charged in a separate case with aggravated rape of a child. A conviction in that case would result in an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole, Anthony Craighead, deputy district attorney general in the Seventh Judicial District in Anderson County, told Judge Steven Sword.

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Teen allegedly killed mother after she took away phone


Shawn Willis

 

An Anderson County teenager allegedly shot and killed his mother while she was sleeping after she punished him by taking away his cell phone, according to court records.

Shawn Tyler Willis, 18, of Rocky Top, has been charged with first-degree murder.

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Shawn Willis

An Anderson County teenager allegedly shot and killed his mother while she was sleeping after she punished him by taking away his cell phone, according to court records.

Shawn Tyler Willis, 18, of Rocky Top, has been charged with first-degree murder. He allegedly shot his mother, Sandy K. Willis, 38, in the left side of her head as she lay in bed asleep on Andy’s Ridge Road between Briceville and Rocky Top on Monday morning April 20, 2020.


Shawn Willis

 

An Anderson County teenager allegedly shot and killed his mother while she was sleeping after she punished him by taking away his cell phone, according to court records.

Shawn Tyler Willis, 18, of Rocky Top, has been charged with first-degree murder.

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If you prefer to send a check, you may do so by mailing one to: Oak Ridge Today P.O. Box 6064 Oak Ridge, TN 37831 We also have advanced subscription options. You can see them here. We also accept donations. You can donate here. A donation of $50 or more will make you eligible for a subscription. Thank you for reading Oak Ridge Today. We appreciate your support!

Evaluation ordered for Finnegan at Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute

Sean Finnegan, one of two defendants in a series of gruesome alleged crimes in Oak Ridge some time between December 2019 and August 2020, including murder, sex crimes, and kidnapping, is pictured above in a mugshot from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.

A forensic evaluation has been ordered for Sean Finnegan—one of two defendants in a murder, sex crimes, and kidnapping case in Oak Ridge—at Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute.

The forensic evaluation was ordered last Tuesday by Anderson County General Sessions Court Judge Roger Miller. The order was based upon a petition by the defense and a recommendation from Ridgeview Behavioral Health Services. Finnegan, 52, had an evaluation scheduled at Ridgeview in Oak Ridge on August 31.

Under the new order, he is to be evaluated at the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute—Intensive Services Program for a maximum of 30 days regarding his competency to stand trial and his mental condition at the time of the alleged crimes (the insanity defense).

IQ testing is to be included in the evaluation, the order said. The mental health evaluation is also expected to include a finding about whether Finnegan meets specific criteria for being committed.

It’s not unusual for defendants in homicide cases to have a mental health evaluation of this type. The results are generally not available to the public.

[Read more…]

Evaluation ordered for Finnegan, charged with murder, rape, kidnapping

Sean Finnegan, one of two defendants in a series of gruesome alleged crimes in Oak Ridge between December 2019 and August 2020, including murder, sex crimes, and kidnapping, is pictured above in a mugshot from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.

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.

[Read more…]

Judge denies motion to reduce bond for Dishman, who could face death penalty

Rebecca Dishman, one of two defendants in a series of gruesome alleged crimes, including murder, sex crimes, and kidnapping, is pictured above in a mugshot from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.

Note: This story was last updated at 11:45 p.m.

An Anderson County judge on Tuesday denied a motion to reduce the $1 million bond for Rebecca Dishman, and a prosecutor said the state could consider the death penalty in the “especially heinous” murder.

Dishman, 22, is one of two defendants charged with murder, sex crimes, kidnapping, and abuse of a corpse in a series of gruesome crimes allegedly committed against Jennifer Gail Paxton, 36, of Knoxville, in a home in east Oak Ridge sometime between December and August.

Dishman had a hearing in Anderson County General Sessions Court in Oak Ridge on Tuesday afternoon. She was represented by defense attorney Paul Sexton.

Sexton said Dishman waived her right to be in court, and she did not appear to hear the discussion of her case. On Dishman’s behalf, Sexton asked Anderson County General Sessions Court Judge Roger Miller to reduce her bond.

“She’s a woman of limited means,” Sexton said, and there is no way she can afford to be released on bond.

Under the law, Dishman is entitled to a reasonable bond, Sexton said.

[Read more…]

Bond for Finnegan set at $1 million in murder, rape, kidnapping case

Sean Finnegan

Note: This story contains graphic content. Reader discretion is advised.

Bond for Sean Finnegan was set at $1 million on Monday. It’s the same bond his co-defendant, Rebecca Elizabeth Dishman, received on Friday.

Finnegan, 52, and Dishman, 22, are charged with murder, sex crimes, kidnapping, and abuse of a corpse after a 36-year-old woman, Jennifer Gail Paxton, was allegedly tortured, raped, and strangled, and her body was allegedly cut and broken before being stuffed into a freezer in a home in east Oak Ridge.

Finnegan has been charged with five felonies after the Oak Ridge Police Department responded to a homicide report at the home on East Fairview Road on Wednesday night and found Paxton’s body during a search of the home early Thursday. 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.

[Read more…]

Victim identified, bond set at $1 million for Dishman

Rebecca Dishman

Note: This story contains graphic content. Reader discretion is advised.

Bond was set at $1 million on Friday for Rebecca Elizabeth Dishman, one of two Oak Ridge defendants charged with first-degree murder, sex crimes, and kidnapping after a 36-year-old woman was allegedly tortured, raped, and strangled, and her mutilated body was stuffed into a freezer.

The identity of the victim, Jennifer Gail Paxton, hadn’t initially been released because authorities wanted to ensure that family members had been notified of her death. On Friday night, the City of Oak Ridge said Paxton’s family had been notified.

Dishman, 22, one of the two defendants, has been charged with five felonies after Paxton’s death: first-degree murder, aggravated sexual battery, aggravated kidnapping, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence.

Her co-defendant, Sean Finnegan, 52, has also been charged with five felonies: first-degree murder, aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence.

Finnegan could have his bond set Monday, according to records in Anderson County General Sessions Court.

[Read more…]

For members: Appeals Court upholds first-degree murder conviction in uncle’s death

Norman-Follis-Norman-Follis-Trial-May-10-2016
The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld the first-degree murder conviction of Norman Lee Follis Jr., 56, of Anderson County, who killed his uncle, Samuel “Sammie” J. Adams, 79, and shoved his body in an apartment closet more than seven years ago. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)

Note: This story was last updated at 2:15 p.m.

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld the first-degree murder conviction of an Anderson County man convicted of killing his uncle and shoving his body into an apartment closet more than seven years ago.

 
Norman-Follis-Norman-Follis-Trial-May-10-2016

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld the first-degree murder conviction of Norman Lee Follis Jr., 56, of Anderson County, who killed his uncle, Samuel “Sammie” J. Adams, 79, and shoved his body in an apartment closet more than seven years ago. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)

 

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld the first-degree murder conviction of an Anderson County man convicted of killing his uncle and shoving his body into an apartment closet more than seven years ago.

The court upheld the conviction, which led to a lifetime sentence without parole, in a 14-page opinion filed Friday, October 18.

The defendant, Norman Lee Follis Jr., 56, had told a detective that he killed his uncle, Samuel “Sammie” J. Adams, 79, after he saw Adams on top of his girlfriend, groping her and refusing to stop. When he tried to pull his uncle off of his girlfriend, Follis said, his uncle turned and attacked him. Follis said Adams had him down on the floor, and he couldn’t get out from under Adams, so he grabbed the first thing he could, a heater cord, and wrapped it around his uncle’s neck until Adams let go.

Prosecutors characterized Follis’ explanation for the killing—the defense of a third party followed by self-defense—as a story that he latched onto and then elaborated upon during an interview with Anderson County Sheriff’s Department Detective Don Scuglia in January 2012. Two hours of taped interviews with Scuglia were “full of lies,” Tony Craighead, deputy district attorney general in the Seventh Judicial District, said during the trial in May 2016. Prosecutors called it murder, a premeditated killing that profited Follis and his girlfriend, Tammy Sue Chapman, now 51. They said Follis misled family, neighbors, and law enforcement officers about where Adams was that last month—before his body was found in a Patt Lane apartment closet on January 24, 2012—and they cited testimony that Follis sold Adams’ car for $1,000 cash on January 16, 2012.

In his appeal, which was filed last year, Follis argued that the state had failed to prove premeditation and didn’t show that a deadly weapon was used. He said prosecutors didn’t have a declaration of his intent to kill Adams.

But the state and appeals court disagreed, saying premeditation was established by Follis’ actions during and after his uncle’s death. Among other factors, those actions included placing the electrical heater cord around Adams’ neck and using it as a deadly weapon, hiding the body in a closet and pushing a couch in front of the closet door to conceal it, and using his uncle’s car after his death.

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