Police suspect murder-for-hire in death of local doctor

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Updated: 7/17/2012 1:30 am

Lubbock police said the violent death of Dr. Joseph Sonnier lll on July 11th was the result of a murder-for-hire fueled by the jealousy of a fellow physician.

Dr. Michael Thomas Dixon, an Amarillo plastic surgeon, and David Shepard, the man accused of carrying out murder, each were arrested Monday in Amarillo and are being held on $10 million bonds. Dixon was brought back to Lubbock late-afternoon, and Shepard is expected to be returned shortly. LPD Capt. Jon Caspell said that both men will be charged with murder.

Police unraveled the alleged plot through interviews with Sonnier's colleagues, the woman Sonnier was said to be dating, and David Shepard's roommate, who, according to the arrest warrant, supplied several details implicating Shepard.

Among them: David Shepard had been watching Sonnier for weeks, sometimes texting Dixon as he did so. Shepard stated he had shot Sonnier several times after entering through a window.  Shepard described to the roommate how he had muffled the sound of the gunshots and he described other specifics that matched the scene. He said he was to be paid by Dixon with three silver bars worth approximately $3000 each. The roommate also said, according to the warrant, that Shepard had tried to commit suicide at least once, and possibly twice since Sonnier's body was found July 11th.

“We want the public to be confident that they are in no danger from this case,” Caspell said. “There is no evidence that this was a random act. We believe Dr. Sonnier was specifically and individually targeted by Dr. Dixon and Mr. Shepard. There is no evidence of random home invasion murders occurring in Lubbock.”

The warrant said Sonnier's girlfriend, whose name has not been released, told police that Dixon still wanted to see her, even though she was dating Sonnier. It stated that colleague of Sonnier's told police the doctor had told her his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend "would not leave her alone".

Dixon owns Sensei Med Spa in Amarillo, and apparently is a well-known physician. He is active on the Plastic Surgery Channel, described on its website as "a multimedia platform for credible information exchange, a proven network of authority and a brain trust for innovation and development". 

He also consulted on-air for local television stations.

“I don't know if we have ever encountered a case like this involving two high profile doctors,” Caspell said. “Certainly we have come to know that Dr. Dixon is very well known up in the Amarillo area. This is unusual, that doesn't change the fact that we believe he as well as Mr. Shepard are responsible.” 

Police said the investigation is ongoing and active, with additional charges possible for the two suspects.

Click the link to read more details from the arrest warrant.



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