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05 January 2015

Jo Shanley (1936 - ) machinist

Joseph Shanley of Billerica, Massachusetts, had felt since childhood that he was the wrong sex. In 1969, at age 33, Shanley went to Casablanca and had surgery with Dr Burou.

However on return Shanley continued dressing as a man to keep his job as a machinist. Shanley dressed and lived as Jo outside work.

Shanley retired in 2001, and with her sister, Ann Cavanaugh, bought a house in Claremont, New Hampshire. After a few weeks, it was apparent that the arrangement was not working, and the house was put back on the market. On October 4th three real estate agents and two prospective buyers heard gunshots, found Shanley apparently intoxicated, and Cavanaugh dead on a bedroom floor.

Joseph Shanley was arrested, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and was sentenced to 22 years to life. Shanley also filed a motion to be declared a woman. The state attorneys objected to the motion on procedural and jurisdictional grounds in that the court had no power to make such a ruling.

However, after Shanley's physical state was confirmed, the prosecutors were agreeable that she be placed in a Connecticut prison with a special transgender unit. A year later she was transferred to the Correctional Center for Women, in Purdy, Washington.

There are unanswered questions.   Was the sister unaware of Jo’s womanhood?   If not, what was Jo thinking in agreeing to share a house?  Shanley was presenting as male at the time of arrest, even though she had retired and moved to another town.


  1. Hello, I have been working on my family tree and it has come to light that Jo is my great grandmother's sibling. The only information i am looking for is, has Jo passed away? I have done an inmate search and nothing has come up for Jo. I am not looking to contact Jo, I am just wondering if Jo was transferred or has passed away as of 2021 when i am asking this. Thank you in advance.

    1. Anonymous8/9/22 13:28

      Hi, Joseph was my roommate at WCCW back in 2008. Yes he has passed. I believe in the last 2 years or so. I can find out a more accurate time from a friend who is still in there if you would like (I was released in ‘09). He was a very nice man. Before I knew he was actually a man, I remember changing clothes and he would always turn and look out of the window or keep himself busy. He was moved upstairs because someone with health reasons got priority for his lower bunk. He was always so kind and liked by everyone. I hope this helps.

  2. What is point of asking a question when you have blocked anybody from getting back to you? Normally one would click on your Google name to get an email address, facebook page or whatever. Why not set something up and then try again.


Comments that constitute non-relevant advertisements will be declined, as will those attempting to be rude. Comments from 'unknown' and anonymous will also be declined. Repeat: Comments from "unknown" will be declined, as will anonymous comments. If you don't have a Google id, I suggest that you type in a name or a pseudonym.