Dr. Thomas Dixon

On the morning of July 11, 2012 co-workers of chief of pathology, Dr. Joe Sonnier, was found shot and stabbed in the garage of his Lubbock Texas home. He had been shot five times and stabbed a total of eleven times in the back. Losing a parent in this manner has to be extremely hard but sadly for Dr. Sonnier's children it was not something unknown to them. Their mother, Becky Gallegos had been killed almost two years earlier, almost to the exact day. Becky had been murdered by her second husband, Fermin, who not only then shot himself but also shot the family dog. I am certain that no one expects to have a parent murdered, let alone two, in two unrelated incidents. Considering that the Gallegos case was clearly closed quickly and the perpetrator of that crime was obviously dead, it was quickly determined that this was one of the few times in which coincidences, were just that when it came to murder.

After his divorce from Becky, Joe had become quite a sought after bachelor and hit the dating scene running eventually. He even took up dancing. He started dating a woman named Richelle Shetina. As with all cases, those closest to the victim are interviewed first. This included Joe's children, as well as Richelle. Of course one of the first questions that everyone is asked is if they suspect anyone capable of committing the crime or who would have wanted the victim dead. The only person that had any idea of who could have been involved was Richelle. She quickly mentioned to authorities the name, Dr. Thomas Dixon.

Richelle had once dated Dr. Dixon who was a prominent plastic surgeon in the Amarillo area. There was one report that stated they had been married but that does not seem to be true. However, it was rather well known that Dixon did not take the break up very well at all according to his friends. To be clear it appears that Richelle did not immediately start dating Joe Sonnier after the break up so it is not as if Joe was a cause of the break up. That did not stop Dixon from blaming him though and was convinced if he could break the two up then Richelle would come back to him.

Investigators started looking into this lead and quickly learned they were on the right path. Thomas Dixon and a former business partner of his, David Shepard were arrested on the day of Joe Sonnier's funeral. Two days after Joe's body had been found Shepard's roommate called the police and said that he had attempted suicide and had confessed to the crime.

David Shepard would sign a written confession to the crime saying that Dixon had paid him to commit the murder. To be fair Shepard has recanted this confession but it matters little since he had led investigators to the gun that he admitted to using in the murder and other evidence clearly points to his confession being true to events. He would plead guilty and receive a sentence of life without parole.

Dixon was not so easy to get to confess, at least not to murder. He would take his case to trial but even there he would admit to plotting to ruining the relationship between Richelle and Joe Sonnier.

Dixon would go to trial in November of 2015. So what did the prosecution have against him? Well despite Shepard not testifying against him at his trial they had the fact that he had led them to the gun he claimed to have used in the murder. The gun had been traced back to Dixon's brother who stated he had given it to him in 2006. They also had the fact that it was known that Dixon had 100 oz silver bars. Shepard had sold one at a pawn shop a month before the murder as an apparent advance payment for $2,750. It was determined that two more silver bars were given to Shepard. The total amount to almost $9,000. Investigators would determine that Joe Sonnier's alarm had been shut off at almost 7:30 pm on July 10th indicating when the murder had occurred. Dixon and Shepard would exchange texts back and forth soon after the murder. While Dixon would admit to knowing Shepard was at Joe Sonnier's home, he would claim that it was to obtain pictures. The duo, according to Dixon, were looking to find proof that Sonnier was not being faithful to Richelle, or at least that was their claim.

Dixon's jury did not believe the defense theory and after deliberating less than two hours after an eighteen day trial they convicted Dixon on two counts of capital murder. He would receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Richelle Shetina was never suspected as being involved or knowing anything of the plan. It was simply her intuition that led her to name Dixon as a suspect after Joe's death. Investigators would claim this was one of the rare cases in which one prominent person was involved in the killing of another prominent person. These were two people who were both very successful in life and had a bright future. Now one was dead and the other will spend the rest of his life in prison.


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