Tag Archives: murder

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.

Love-triangle Murder Case Results in Conviction and Life Sentence for Wife, after Claims of Threesomes and Alligators

 

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Denise Williams with Mike, and Brian Winchester (inset)

Mike Williams body was never found after his friend told police that he had drowned in a lake while they were duck hunting back in 2000. At they time, they assumed his body had been eaten by alligators, but his mother never believed it, and never gave up. She even paid for signs and billboards to get the police to investigate, right out of a movie. But the break in the case didn’t come until year later.

Denise Williams collected a $1.75 million dollar life insurance policy payout when her husband was declared dead. His best friend, Brian Winchester, had been fishing with Mike on the Williams’ sixth wedding anniversary, and apparently explained the disappearance well enough that the cops bought it. A few years later, Brian and Denise got married.

It turns out, Denise and Brian had been having an affair- a juicy affair involving threesomes with other parties, trial testimony revealed. She and Brian ultimately got married a few years after Mike’s death, in 2005, and their marriage lasted ten years, falling apart after both of them had additional affairs. Things came to a head in 2016 when Brian, apparently worried that his now-ex-wife would spill the beans about murdering Mike, that he kidnapped Denise at gunpoint. Major backfire, as Brian was now facing a possible life sentence for the armed kidnapping and armed burglary charges. Desperate to make a deal, Brian offered to come clean about Mike’s death. The prosecutors agreed to offer him immunity if cooperated, and 20-years on the kidnapping case. Brian explained that Denise has conspired with him to stage Mike’s death as a boating mishap so they could be together. Brian led authorities to Mike’s remains and charged Denise with murder, conspiracy, and accessory.

The trial was a juicy one, replete with intrigue and affairs. Denise’s defense suggested that Brian was lying to try to save his own skin, and that he had lied repeatedly to investigators. At trial, prosecutors introduced images from one of the threesomes with Brian’s first wife, but they brought her in and she testified that there had been a sexual encounter with she, Brian, and Denise prior to Mike’s disappearance. They also brought in a woman who testified she had had an affair with Brian while he was married to Denise, and that Denise had walked in on them together at one point.

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Brian Winchester, via DOC

Ultimately, Brian Winchester’s testimony about Denise’s involvement persuaded the jury, who found Denise Williams guilty at her December trial. The sentencing occurred last week and was mostly perfunctory, as the court was required to impose a mandatory life sentence. Winchester still has most of his sentence in front of him, Florida DOC estimates his release date is not until July, 2036. Denise Williams is not eligible for any form of parole or early release.

Below is a great behind-the-scenes interview with Winchester’s attorney about how he was able to get the immunity deal on Winchester’s kidnapping case- cool insights from an interview with the Law and Crime network. Sounds like the state was leaning hard on the new case to compel him to cooperate on the murder. Also, much of the trial testimony is available online, here.

Murder Mystery Writer Accused of Murdering her Husband

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Nancy Crampton Brody

Portland author Nancy Crampton-Brody, who wrote several novels as Nancy Brophy, has been arrested and charged with the June murder of her husband of 27 years, Daniel Brophy. Daniel had been lead chef instructor at the Oregon Culinary Institute [OCI] since 2006, and had been teaching culinary skills long before that. He was shot at an OCI kitchen, where his students found him, dying. There were initially no suspects and no description of any suspects.

Police soon began to suspect Brophy, who admitted to her neighbor that she was considered a suspect. Perhaps it did not help that she had penned books like “The Wrong Husband”, and in 2011 wrote an online essay titled “How to Murder Your Husband” with suggestions of how to get away with it (WP located the archive, as the post is no longer public.) The arrest report has been sealed, so there are not many details in why the police have charged her, or what her motive may have been. The sealed report suggests the investigation is still open, perhaps there is an accomplice or yet-unnamed collaborator. If so, Brophy would have been ignoring her own advice in her essay, where she discouraged using hitmen. Whether or not she did it is yet to be decided, but having penned an essay about murdering her husband is not a good look.

Zoekeeper named “Joe Exotic” Indicted for Murder-for-Hire Plot against ‘Rival’ Zookeeper in Florida

 

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Joe Exotic

An Oklahoma zookeeper, who ran a big-cat shelter and billed himself as “Joe Exotic“, has been indicted and arrested for attempted murder-for-hire for attempting to hire multiple hitmen to kill the CEO of a an animal sanctuary in Florida. Joe “Exotic” Maldanado-Passage, 55, who ran a tiger petting zoo in Oklahoma, had a years-long feud with Carole Baskin, the CEO of Tampa’s Big Cat Rescue, regarding the efforts of animal sanctuaries to effectively boycott Exotic’s travelling zoo for what it claimed were harsh treatment of young tigers. Exotic had retaliated, which led to Baskin suing him, and being awarded judgment against him in excess of $1 million dollars. Exotic has allegedly offered to pay two different people to murder Baskin, but authorities were able to foil his efforts. He has previously made threats to Baskin, and even broadcast them himself on Youtube. The case is in the Federal system, presumably due to the interstate issues of his scheme.

Exotic has garnered some notoriety for his ill-fated campaigns for President and Governor of Oklahoma. Take a few minutes to watch, it’s indescribable…

Woman Accused of Killing her Husband with Eye Drops

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Lana Clayton

This is the first case I’ve ever seen of murder with Visine. When Steven Clayton was found dead in his home in July, it had appeared that he had suffered a fall. The funeral was held in the backyard of the South Carolina home he shared with his wife, itself a re-creation of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. It wasn’t until an autopsy was completed with toxicology that determined the cause of death was a high amount of¬†tetrahydrozoline in his system, a chemical commonly found in over-the-counter eye drops. His wife Lana Clayton, 52, later admitted to authorities that she had spiked her husband’s water with eye drops over a three-day period prior to his death. No motive has been revealed, but it appears she had posted about his infidelity a few years back on social media. It appears she was in nursing for the VA, so she likely would have known the toxic properties of the eye drop chemical.

 

Murder Trial Underway for Babysitter Accused of Murdering Child

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Rafael Carrion

Jury selection started this morning in Fort Myers in the trial of Rafael Carrion, accused in the death of a neighbor’s child that was in his care. He told investigators that the child must have fallen or something, but the injuries were severe and consistent with a violent beating. We broke the news that Carrion had just been released from prison at the time he was arrested. The child’s father told Fox 4 that he felt the mother should have been arrested, too… but there is no indication that she has been charged. Carrion is charged with second degree murder, aggravated manslaughter, and aggravated child abuse, and is facing life in prison.

Alleged Cop-Killer Desmaret Indicted for First Degree Murder

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Wisner Desmaret

A grand jury has returned an indictment for First Degree Murder against Wisner Desmaret, the man accused of killing FMPD Officer Adam Jobbers-Miller. A grand jury indictment is a necessary step in Florida to proceed on First Degree Murder charges, and may be the next step toward the state seeking the death penalty. The grand jury found evidence that he killed Jobbers-Miller with premeditated design or in the course of committing a violent felony (resisting an officer with violence), in addition to additional charges of Resisting with Violence, Robbery, Depriving an Officer of Means of Protection, Attempted Murder and Aggravated Assault on other officers, and Burglary and Grand Theft. The police report indicates that Wisner, a former boxer, knocked Jobbers-Miller down, took his gun, and shot him in the head while he was still on the ground. He then fired at two other officers, one of whom shot Desmaret before he was taken into custody.

Desmaret is set for arraignment on August 27, though that may be moved up, since the indictment has been filed. Chief Assistant State Attorney Amira Fox was the prosecutor who obtained the indictment, and will likely be handling the case.