Since its debut in 1992, NBC’s ‘Dateline’ has become a mainstay of the newsmagazine genre. Since it has been airing for such a long time and focuses mostly on true-crime stories, with sporadic editions on other subjects, the series has amassed a sizable library of news articles and investigative journalism, with a new case to investigate every week. This is also true of their most recent episode, “Lone Star Obsession,” which details the murder-for-hire plan against Dr. Joseph Sonnier. As well as highlighting the horrific murder, “20/20: This Is Revenge” it shows how the authorities learned about the love triangle and simmering jealousy that finally led to such a tragic loss. So, let’s examine the specifics and learn more, shall we?
How Did Dr. Joseph Sonnier Die?
Dr. Joseph Albert Sonnier III, who had a very successful life, died at the age of 57. He and his family moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, where he spent his formative years. He pursued a Bachelor of Science degree at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge after completing his high school education, which he successfully completed in 1976. Following this, he completed his pathology residency at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas, and graduated from the Louisiana State University School of Medicine in Shreveport with a medical degree. Dr. Joseph passed away on July 10, 2012, just after returning from work at his sprawling house in Lubbock, Texas.
It took a day for landscapers who had come to work on the house’s grounds to find the wealthy pathologist’s body. They called 911 as soon as they realised there was a problem, and the police showed there not long after. Then, Dr. Joseph was discovered bloodied and unconscious inside his house. The investigators searched the crime site for any evidence after securing the area and his body but found essentially nothing. However, the coroners were conducting an autopsy at the same time, which revealed that Dr. Joseph had suffered 11 puncture wounds in addition to five bullet wounds, indicating that he had been shot and stabbed to death. It was a homicide from beginning to end.
Who Killed Dr. Joseph Sonnier?
The crime originally baffled the police. No matter who they questioned or which route they took, they were unable to determine who could possibly have wanted a doctor killed or why. They received a tip later that week from a man who claimed to have been staying with David Shepard, who had mentioned murder in Lubbock. He claimed to have conducted an online search, discovered details on Dr. Joseph Sonnier’s passing, and then suspected that Sonnier might have been David’s victim.
David Shepard admitted to the police that Dr. Thomas Michael Dixon, a friend and business partner, had offered him three silver bars, each worth around $9,000, and a box of Cuban cigars in exchange for killing Dr. Joseph. According to pawnshop records, David cashed in those silver bars the day following the homicide. Dr. Thomas Michael Dixon was detained in relation to Joseph’s slaying on July 16, 2012, the same day the Sonnier family performed his funeral in Shreveport, Louisiana. Records show that Thomas wanted Joseph killed because the latter had been dating Richelle Shetina, his ex-girlfriend, who he still had feelings for.
Richelle Shetina reportedly met Dr. Joseph Sonnier while enrolled in dancing lessons at the D’Venue dancing Studio in Lubbock, Texas, in July 2011. Although Richelle and Thomas Dixon were still in love, she grew close to Joseph and their friendship quickly progressed to love. Richelle also never looked back after realising her affections for Joseph and began to fantasise about their future together. Thomas was furious about this development since he wanted exclusive access to Richelle. Yet on October 31, 2011, she saw him for the last time with the intention of persuading him that her heart belonged to someone else. Even Richelle claimed that Joseph was aware of her meeting with Thomas, but none of them were aware of the impending disaster.
When Thomas realised he couldn’t persuade Richelle to reconcile, the doctor devised a cunning strategy and hired David to stalk them and cause friction. Interesting enough, David made numerous attempts to cause trouble, and he even forced one of Joseph’s ex-girlfriends to text him. However, Joseph stayed devoted to Richelle, and their bond grew deeper every day. On July 10, 2012, David killed Dr. Joseph after receiving payment from Thomas to get rid of the physician.
The jury was deadlocked during Thomas’ initial murder trial in 2014 as a result of David’s altered comments, and a mistrial was declared. When he was tried again a year later, David Shepard was not brought to the witness stand this time. Instead, David was found guilty solely on the basis of witness testimony and his initial confession, and this strategy was successful. Thomas Michael Dixon was convicted of two charges of capital murder in connection with the passing of Dr. Joseph Sonnier in November 2015. But the 7th District Court of Appeals in Amarillo approved his appeal in December 2018 and overturned his conviction, giving him a fresh trial. David was released on bail after his conviction was overturned, but in April 2020, Justices of the Seventh Court of Appeals cancelled that bail, forcing him to go back to jail. The court then decided that even after David was exonerated of the second count of capital murder in 2022, he would still be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release because of his conviction on the first count of murder.
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