Texas doctor denies hiring man to kill pathologist

AP News
Posted: Nov 12, 2015 1:15 PM

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — A Texas plastic surgeon has denied hiring a hit man to kill a pathologist who was dating his former girlfriend.

Dr. Thomas Michael Dixon is on trial for the second time facing allegations that he hired his business partner to kill Dr. Joseph Sonnier III in July 2012, in exchange for three bars of silver valued at $9,000. Jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict during his capital murder trial last year, prompting Lubbock County prosecutors to retry him.

Dixon said he paid David Neal Shepard the silver to become a shareholder in an allergy testing business that Shepard was starting. According to Dixon, Shepard also told him about his experiences as a private investigator. Knowing Shepard's abilities, Dixon told jurors he conspired with his partner to stalk Sonnier.

Dixon claimed he gave Shepard money to travel to Lubbock, Texas, to take photographs of Sonnier with other women to try and ruin the pathologist's relationship with Dixon's former girlfriend.

"I never in my wildest dreams thought anything could happen to Joseph Sonnier. I never thought he could be harmed or murdered ever. I wanted pictures, and it turned into something I never foresaw ever," Dixon said.

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Investigators said Shepard broke into Sonnier's home in Lubbock, then stabbed the doctor and shot him several times with a gun. Shepard agreed to a plea deal in 2013 and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Dixon is scheduled to testify again on Thursday.