Emotions flow as Sonnier family members address his killer

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Updated: 9/17/2013 1:13 am
It was likely a long walk to the courtroom for David Neal Shepard, who pleaded guilty last month to the murder for hire of Lubbock physician Joseph Sonnier.
Shepard already knew he would be spending the rest of his life in prison with no possibility for parole.

After hearing his fate officially pronounced, Shepard sat in this chair and listened to the family's emotional statements. At one point, while crying, he turned to Sonnier's 82-year-old mother and said "I'm sorry."

Five of Sonnier's family members spoke directly to the killer expressing their agony.
"I do not forgive you, and I never will forgive you," Sonnier's sister Marrianne Bartlett said. "Your actions were permanent and so is my condemnation."

"To lose him due to the violent senseless actions of a man who did not even know him is beyond my comprehension," Sonnier's other sister Suzie McBride said. 

Sonnier's son, Joseph Sonnier IV, said his father was a hero, a great man who saved thousands of lives during his career. 

"If you, Mr. Shepard, had been one of his friends or employees, and you were desperately in need of nine grand, my father would have found a way to help you, no questions asked," Sonnier IV said.  

Amarillo plastic surgeon Thomas Michael Dixon is accused of hiring Shepard to kill Sonnier. Police say Dixon was jealous over Sonnier dating his ex-girlfriend. Investigators say that's what led Dixon to hire Shepard with three silver bars worth about $9,000 as payment. Police found the father of three dead inside his home, after landscapers noticed a broken window and called police.

Joseph Sonnier IV said Shepard's guilty plea goes a long way in the family's eyes, helping them come to terms with the horrible situation.

"This was David Shepard's way of saying that he was sorry," defense attorney Dennis Reeves said. "And by being found guilty of capital murder and being condemned to die in TDC, it's his only way, small way of saying sorry to the family and taking responsibility for what his role in of this murder was."

And Shepard made that apology to our cameras as he was led away to prison.

"I'm very sorry," he said. 

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