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.
- Stephen Seitz. "Murderer's pre-sentence plea: I am a woman" The Union Leader, October 8, 2002. Online at: http://avitale.com/VL.238-10.14.2002.htm.
- "Murderer Who Had Sex Change Sentenced to Transgendered Unit". Corrections.com, 12/16/2002. www.corrections.com/articles/7993-murderer-who-had-sex-change-sentenced-to-transgendered-unit.
- "Prison near Purdy houses transsexual murderer". Seattle PI, December 7, 2003. www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Prison-near-Purdy-houses-transsexual-murderer-1131533.php.
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.