Tonight, ABC News’ 20/20 will investigate the murder of Dr. Joseph Sonnier, a pathologist who was killed after getting involved in a twisted love triangle. Sonnier was found stabbed to death on the morning of July 11, 2012, in his home in Lubbock, Texas. After his body was found, police uncovered a number of bizarre facts, which ultimately led to the arrest of a man named David Shepard.
Read on to learn more about the murder of Dr. Sonnier.
1. His First Wife Was Murdered Two Years Before Him
Strangely enough, Dr. Sonnier’s death came almost exactly two years after his ex-wife, Becky Gallegos, was murdered. Gallegos was found shot and killed by her second husband, who then killed himself, on July 12, 2010. The two murders, however, are said to be unlinked.
Sonnier’s sons, Joseph A. Sonnier, IV, and James Sonnier, reportedly came out after their father’s death saying, “Sadly, my brother and I also lost our mother two years ago under equally tragic, yet totally unrelated circumstances. Without a doubt, we can say that the two situations have no correlation.” Sonnier’s sons went on say, “Although there were many tears shed, there was also a sense of hope that my father’s murder has been solved. We have supreme confidence in the Lubbock law enforcement system and know that justice will be served.”
2. He Was the Chief of Pathology at a Texas Hospital
Joseph Sonnier was the chief of pathology at a hospital in Lubbock, Texas. Texas Monthly writes, “He was tall and lean, with a thousand-watt smile. He wore tailored clothes, took ballroom dancing lessons, and went on European vacations.”
Sonnier was raised in Louisiana and graduated from LSU’s School of Medicine. He had worked as an executive with companies that worked with pathology laboratories before moving to Lubbock, Texas, where he worked for the Covenant Health System. Texas Monthly writes, “Richard Parks, Covenant’s chief executive officer, described Sonnier as ‘a physician’s physician,’ diligent and exact. When he wasn’t working, however, the divorced six-foot-five-inch doctor was the life of the party.”
Another woman, Debra Hollowell, described him as being one of the “best men” she’d ever met.
3. David Shepard Was Found Guilty of His Murder
A few days after Sonnier’s death, a man informed local police that his roommate, David Shepard, had tried to commit suicide after Sonnier’s death. According to ABC News, “The roommate also said that Shepard said he had killed Sonnier ‘due to some triangle as there was a girlfriend that Dr. Sonnier and Michael Thomas Dixon had in common.'” Dixon and Shepard were subsequently arrested and held on first-degree murder charges.
The duo were apparently very close. Texas Monthly writes, “People in Amarillo liked to say that Mike Dixon, a prominent plastic surgeon, and David Shepard, a failed pharmaceutical salesman, had a bromance going on. They had drinks at Butler’s Martini Bar, they watched football at Hummer’s Sports Cafe, and they popped over to Buffalo Wild Wings, where Dixon competed in trivia contests while Shepard flirted with the waitresses.”
According to Texas Monthly, after Dixon and his wife split, he told Shephard he “wished there was something he could do to make Shetina regret her decision—to make her realize she should have stayed with him.” Shepard then, “gave Dixon a knowing nod and said he knew exactly what to do.”
Tonight, however, Shephard will discuss why he killed Dr. Sonnier, and why he “initially admitted that he was hired as a hitman by Dr. Mike Dixon…” suggesting that Dixon may not have asked him to do it, after all.
4. He Was Dating Richelle Shetina at the Time of His Murder
The woman who the two doctors had both dated was Richelle Shetina. Shetina was born in Salt Lake City, and was said to be the ‘complete package’. She was a gorgeous woman who made many men fall in love with her. In the late 70s, the blonde beauty moved to Kansas City, and danced for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. She was going through her second divorce when she met Dixon. According to Texas Monthly, “She and Dixon didn’t see each other every day, but they called and texted constantly.”
Eventually, Shetina met Sonnier and became interested in him. Though Dixon kept trying to win her back, she was no longer interested in him. Shetina and Sonnier were reported to have been “madly in love and traveling the world together”.
On tonight’s episode, Richelle Shetina will come forward to talk about her former boyfriend’s murder, and her relationship with Dixon, who reportedly hired David Shephard to kill Sonnier.
5.His Sons Describe Him as Wise
When reflecting on their late father’s life and accomplishments, Dr. Sonnier’s sons said, “In addition to being an amazing dad, Joe Sonnier was a highly respected doctor, a mentor to several of the younger pathologists that worked for him at the hospital, a trusted source of wisdom and advice to his brother and sisters, and one heck of a good dancer.”
Tonight, his sons will also speak out on ABC News’ 20/20, to discuss the kind of man their father was and the circumstances that led to his death.