Dr. Joseph Sonnier from 20/20

‘Dateline’: Joseph Sonnier Killed After A Love Triangle Gone Wrong

Hulu, News, Peacock

Dateline recently covered the murder of Dr. Joseph Sonnier. The episode dove into the doctor’s tragic 2012 death and also featured interviews with the landscapers who discovered his body.

As with many tragic murder cases, love and jealousy appeared to play a pretty big role. But what actually happened to the murderer in this case?

Dr. Joseph Sonnier just wanted a happy life with his sweetheart

To those familiar with the case, it appears that Dr. Sonnier’s only mistake was falling in love — something no one can blame him for. He found himself in the middle of a messy love triangle that had fatal consequences.

ABC News reports that Richelle Shetina met Dr. Thomas Dixon at a med spa in Amarillo, Texas in 2008. They quickly became friendly with one another and the relationship soon blossomed into a flirtation. However, Dr. Dixon was married. The flirtation evolved into an affair. When Dr. Dixon’s wife found out, she filed for divorce. After several months, Richelle also ended her relationship with Dr. Dixon.

Afterward, Richelle Shetina met another tall, handsome doctor that stole her heart. She met Dr. Joseph Sonnier while taking dance classes in 2011. Dr. Dixon was desperate to win back Richelle’s heart, but she let him know she had moved on. However, she did agree to meet him one last time to let him know in person that their romance was over.

Dr. Joseph Sonnier from ABC News
Dr. Joseph Sonnier/ABC News

Dr. Sonnier and Richelle dated for quite some time and even vacationed in Paris for her 50th birthday party. Things seemed absolutely perfect, but in hindsight, Richelle admits that something was definitely off.

Richelle noted that she always felt like she was being watched. At one point, ABC News report that she received a strange note, written by someone claiming to be Dr. Sonnier’s ex. However, the doctor dismissed it and believed that someone was just trying to come between the couple.

Little did the happy couple know that the situation was about to turn deadly.

Someone brutally murders Dr. Sonnier when he returns home

On the night of July 10, 2012, someone stabbed and shot Dr. Joseph Sonnier when he returned home from a day at the office. His landscapers discovered the body the next day when they showed up to work on the property.

Later on in the week, the police receive a tip from a man named Paul Reynolds. Reynolds claims that he is staying with a man called David Shepard, who told Reynolds that he murdered someone in Lubbock, Texas. He did a quick online search and realized that Dr. Sonnier had been murdered in the city and couldn’t help but wonder if that was who Shepard killed.

The authorities caught up with Shepard and thoroughly questioned him. Shepard confessed to the murder and said his friend Dr. Thomas Dixon gave him three silver bars and a box of Cuban cigars to kill Dr. Sonnier. Authorities confirmed the claims with pawn shop records where Shepard sold the silver. They proceeded to arrest Dr. Dixon shortly after.

Dr. Dixon is prosecuted for the murder in court

When the murder case went to trial, the prosecutors used David Shepard as the main witness. He already confessed to the crime and accepted a plea deal to testify against Dr. Dixon. ABC News notes that he’s currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole and avoided the death penalty.

However, Shepard surprised the courtroom when he got on the stand. He backtracked and claimed that Dr. Dixon wasn’t involved in the murder at all. Shepard claimed that he acted alone. The silver bars were just part of an unrelated business deal. Due to the confusion, the trial ended in a hung jury and the judge declared it as a mistrial. The retrial began a year later.

During the retrial, the prosecutors put Shepard’s friend Paul Reynolds on the stand. They also put Shepard’s daughter Haley on the stand, who testified that she strongly believed her father lied in order to protect Dr. Dixon.

Dr. Thomas Michael Dixon from ABC News
Dr. Thomas Michael Dixon/ABC News

The court found Dr. Dixon guilty of “two counts of capital murder and is sentenced to life in prison without parole,” according to ABC News.

The Sun reports that as of 2022, it looks like he’s going to be in prison for the rest of his life.

Dateline fans that want to tune in and catch the episode can stream it on Hulu or Peacock. Check back for more Dateline stories like this one.

Nikole Behrens
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