Murder Conviction Overturned in Texas Doctor Murder-for-Hire of Another Doctor Case

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Dr. Thomas Dixon

Prosecutors contend that Dr. Michael Dixon, a plastic surgeon from

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Dr. Joseph Sonnier

Amarillo, Texas was so envious of the new lover his ex-girlfriend had taken, also a doctor, that he hired an associate to murder him. Dixon’s relationship with the ex, Richelle Shetina, started ignominiously: she was a patient that came to Dixon’s spa for Botox treatments in 2008. They started an affair, though Dixon was married at the time, and his wife eventually found out and filed for divorce. After several months, Shetina broke off the relationship in 2010.

Shetina found new love in 2011 with another doctor, Joseph Sonnier III, a successful doctor in Lubbock, Texas. However, Dixon was never able to let go of the relationship. Shetina felt as though she was being watched at the gym, and Dr. Sonnier complained to co-workers that his beau’s ex was having trouble letting things go.

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David Shepard

Things came to a tragic conclusion in July, 2012, when Dr. Sonniers was found dead at his home, shot and stabbed. Sadly, Dr. Sonnier’s murder fell almost 2 years to the day after the murder/suicide of his ex-wife by her second husband. Suspicion for Sonnier’s brutal killing would likely have centered on Dr. Dixon pretty quickly anyway, due to the animosity he’d had toward Dr. Sonnier. But investigators got a quick break in the case, when an Amarillo man named Paul Reynolds came forward to say that his roommate had admitted to killing a man, and Reynolds had done some digging and discovered the Sonnier murder, and thought his roommate, David Shepard might be responsible.

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Dr. D. Dixon

When investigators spoke to Shepard, he admitted that he had committed the murder at the behest of his business associate, Dixon, and that Dixon had paid him three silver bars and a box of cigars for accomplishing the task. He had been hired by Dixon for weveral months to spy on Sonnier, with the intent to catch him cheating, so Dixon could expose Sonnier, but to no avail, at which point the murder plot was hatched. Investigators found that Shepard had indeed cashed some gold bars the day after the murder, and charged both he and Dixon with capital murder.

Shepard, who had admitted to being the killer, entered a plea to life in prison, and agreed to cooperate against Dr. Dixon. However, when Dixon went to trial in 2014, Shepard recanted his accusation against Dixon, and said Dixon had only hired him to track Sonnier, and that he committed the murder without Dixon’s direction. The jury hung, and a mistrial was declared. The case went back to trial in 2015, and prosecutors didn’t call Shepard the second time around. However, they called Shepard’s own daughter, Haley, to testify that she thought her father lied the first time around to protect Dixon. This time, Dixon was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Things turned around again a couple months ago when the appellate court in Amarillo reversed Dixon’s conviction, and remanded the case for a new trial. I thought the appellate court might have an issue with Haley Shepard’s testimony, but apparently the issues that led to the appellate decision were errors by the court in not allowing people into the courtroom, and that cell phone records were obtained without a warrant, pursuant to a recent Supreme Court decision. Just recently, Dixon’s bond was reset to two million dollars, which has has posted as he awaits retrial.

On a separate note, one of Dr. Sonnier’s sons has gone on to be a successful filmmaker, the Dallas magazine did a profile touching on his family tragedies.

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