KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A 25-year-old woman has pleaded guilty to a gruesome 2020 murder in Oak Ridge and will cooperate with state prosecutors in the death penalty case against her co-defendant, Seventh Judicial District Attorney Dave Clark announced Tuesday.
Rebecca Dishman, 25, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder in the death of 36-year-old Jennifer Gail Paxton. She was sentenced to life in prison for murder and an additional 50 years to be served at 100% on two counts of Rape of a Child from a subsequent investigation.
Dishman will be required to cooperate with state prosecutors in the case against Sean Finnegan, who could be executed for his role in Paxton’s brutal death.
The two were arrested after a search warrant was executed by the Oak Ridge Police Department and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at a home on E Fairview Road in the early hours of Aug. 6, 2020.
According to the initial arrest warrants, Finnegan and Dishman lured Paxton into the residence with the promise of a place to stay in December 2019. The two allegedly held her against her will with restraints, tortured, raped, deprived her of food and medical care, strangled her to death, and left her broken body in a stand-up freezer.
Dishman’s guilty plea was entered in court Tuesday with family members of the victims present in the courtroom. A trial date in the Finnegan case was set for August 2024.
She and Finnegan have been housed in the Anderson County Detention Facility since their 2020 arrests.
“I am grateful to the officers and prosecutors who have worked so hard on this case,” Clark said in the release. “This is a huge step in achieving justice in this case and for these victims.”