In 2015, Dr. Thomas Michael Dixon was convicted in the murder-for-hire plot against Dr. Joseph Sonnier, who at the time of the murder was dating Dr. Dixon’s ex-girlfriend, Richelle Shetina. But weeks ago, Dr. Dixon was set free when he won his appeal, had his life sentence revoked and may now be granted a new trial, his third one for the same charges. Now, as prosecutors fight to have that conviction reinstated and with Dr. Dixon out on bail, a two-hour “20/20” documentary event digs deeper into the puzzling crime and love triangle. The episode features new interviews with Kristen Furhmann and Marsha Mahurin, two hold-out jurors from Dr. Dixon’s first trial; and Cynthia Orr, Dr. Dixon’s appellate attorney who says that Dr. Dixon is not responsible for Dr. Sonnier’s death. The prime-time event includes correspondent Ryan Smith’s exclusive interviews with David Shepard, the man who pulled the trigger; and Shetina from the ABC News archives. “20/20” airs Friday, March 8 (9:00 – 11:00 p.m. EST) on ABC.
“20/20” features new interviews with journalists who extensively covered the case including ABC affiliate KAMC anchor Bryan Mudd, former Associated Press reporter Betsy Blaney and Lubbock Avalanche Journal’s Gabe Monte. The documentary includes archival interviews with Andrew Dixon, Dr. Dixon’s son; Dallas and James Sonnier, Dr. Sonnier’s sons; Missy Bartlett, Dr. Sonnier’s sister; Haley, Abigail and Rachel Shepard, Shepard’s daughters who were present at his murder trial; and Zach Johnson, an investigator on the case. “20/20” features interrogation tapes, key crime scene photos, text messages and archival footage.
The romance of Shetina and Dr. Sonnier, a wealthy pathologist, came to a devastating end in July 2012 when Sonnier was found brutally murdered inside his home in Lubbock, Texas. The crime left police stumped, until they received a tip out of the blue that eventually led them to Shepard, the man who pulled the trigger. Shepard told police that Dr. Dixon was obsessed with Shetina and wanted Dr. Sonnier killed, claiming that Dr. Dixon gave him three bars of silver and a box of Cuban cigars for the hit job. Shepard entered into a plea deal for Dr. Sonnier’s murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Dr. Dixon was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 2015. His conviction was overturned in December 2018.
The special on the murder of Dr. Joseph Sonnier is part of “20/20”’s two-hour documentary programming featuring brand-new interviews with key players in some of the biggest newsmaker stories in recent American history. The original eight-week two-hour programming lineup has been extended to 15 weeks and will run through April 12. Since the two-hour documentaries premiered on Jan. 4, “20/20” has been Friday’s No. 1 newsmagazine each week in all key demos: Total Viewers, Adults 18-49 and Adults 25-54.
“20/20” is anchored by David Muir and Amy Robach. David Sloan is senior executive producer.