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Bristol woman sentenced in 2011 death of neighbor

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Rachel Calhoun Rachel Calhoun
Willie Coleman Willie Coleman

A Bristol woman Monday pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the 2011 death of her neighbor.

Investigators said Rachel Lynn Calhoun confessed to beating 73-year-old Johnny Shankel with a stick and strangling him with a cord to steal his money.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Parsons said Calhoun was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. She must serve a minimum of 51 years before becoming eligible for parole.

Besides pleading guilty to the murder, Calhoun also pleaded guilty to especially aggravated robbery, identity theft and fraudulent use of a credit card. Her sentences on those counts were to run concurrently with the murder sentence.

Calhoun told Sullivan County investigators that she went to Shankel’s home in early February 2011 to take his money and credit cards so she could get rid of debt and get her own place, according to a court document. Also noted in that document was her admission that she would kill Shankel if she had to.

Dogs in Shankel’s home contaminated the crime scene for a day after his death. One dog was euthanized so investigators could recover evidence from its stomach.

Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson said at the time Shankel’s body was discovered that the crime scene was the grossest he had seen in his career.

Calhoun’s boyfriend at the time Willie Coleman still has charges pending against him in the case. He was charged with accessory after the fact.

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