LUBBOCK, Texas – A plastic surgeon was convicted Wednesday of hiring a colleague to kill a pathologist who was dating his ex-girlfriend.
A jury in West Texas deliberated less than two hours before finding Dr. Thomas Michael Dixon guilty of capital murder in the death of Dr. Joseph Sonnier III. Prosecutors alleged Dixon gave business partner David Neal Shepard three bars of silver worth $9,000 in exchange for killing Sonnier.
Dixon will receive a life sentence without parole automatically because prosecutors were not seeking the death penalty.
The Amarillo doctor had denied any involvement in the death of Sonnier, who worked as the chief pathologist for Covenant Health System in Lubbock. At trial, Dixon testified that he paid Shepard the silver to become a shareholder in an allergy testing business that Shepard was starting.
Dixon told jurors he did conspire with Shepard to stalk Sonnier, after Shepard told him about his experiences as a private investigator. Dixon said he gave Shepard money to travel to Lubbock to take photographs of Sonnier cheating with other women to try and ruin the pathologist's relationship with Dixon's former girlfriend.
Investigators said Shepard broke into Sonnier's home in Lubbock, then stabbed the doctor and shot him several times with a gun in July 2012. Shepard agreed to a plea deal in 2013 and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Dixon's first capital murder trial ended in a deadlocked jury.