LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — A Texas plastic surgeon plans to fight allegations that he paid another man thousands of dollars in silver bars to kill a fellow doctor who was dating his ex-girlfriend, a defense attorney said Tuesday.
Police claim Dr. Thomas Michael Dixon paid David Neil Shepard three silver bars, worth about $3,000 each, to kill Dr. Joseph Sonnier III.
Dixon is a well-known plastic surgeon in Amarillo and Sonnier was chief pathologist for Covenant Health System in Lubbock. An arrest warrant affidavit suggests a love triangle between Dixon, Sonnier and a woman police have declined to identify.
That affidavit "raises as many questions as it answers," Lubbock attorney Dan Hurley said Tuesday.
"We're trying to get answers to those questions," he said. "Dr. Dixon intends to fight this, that these allegations are untrue."
Dixon, 48, and David Neal Shepard, 51, were arrested by police in Amarillo early Monday, authorities said.
The affidavit says Shepard was in business with Dixon, though it does not say what that business was or when they met. Shepard's roommate told authorities that Shepard had been watching Sonnier for weeks and texting Dixon.
Sonnier, 57, was found shot and stabbed July 11 inside his home in Lubbock, about 120 miles south of the Texas Panhandle city of Amarillo.
Covenant CEO Richard Parks described Sonnier as "a physician's physician," meaning doctors sought his counsel.
"It's very somber and sad" at Covenant, Parks said. "Joe was a solid man, a very competent physician, a very charismatic man."
Sonnier's girlfriend told a police detective that Dixon "insisted on seeing her, even though she was dating Dr. Sonnier," according to the affidavit. Also, a co-worker of Sonnier told the detective that Sonnier had said that his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend "would not leave her alone," the affidavit says.
The affidavit does not offer an explanation as to why Dixon would have paid Shepard in silver bars. However, it says police discovered through an online database that Shepard had sold a 100-ounce bar of silver at an Amarillo pawn shop for $2,750.
Missy Bartlett, Sonnier's sister, told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal last week that the doctor's two sons also lost their mother to violence. In July 2010, a marital dispute was suspected to have led to the shooting death of their mother, Becky J. Gallegos.
Gallegos' husband, 62-year-old Juan Gallegos, turned the gun on himself and died at a hospital later.
"After our father died 13 years ago, Joseph became the patriarch of our family," Bartlett told the newspaper. "He really held all of us together."
Calls for comment to Sonnier's sons, Joseph and James Sonnier, were not immediately returned Tuesday. In Shreveport, La., a woman who answered the phone at the home of a relative of Sonnier told The Associated Press that the family declined to comment.
Messages left for relatives of Shepard and Dixon also were not returned.
Shepard's roommate told authorities that Shepard tried to commit suicide in the days after the killing, according to the affidavit. The roommate said Dixon closed the wounds, told him to calm down and "suggested that David Shepard leave for a couple of weeks," the affidavit said.
Shepard told his roommate that he broke into Sonnier's home through a window and shot him several times with a gun Dixon had given him, the affidavit said. Shepard knew several details that investigators had withheld, according to the affidavit about the roommate's discussion with authorities.
Dixon remained in the Lubbock County Criminal Detention Center with bail set at $10 million. Shepard, whose bail amount was expected to be the same, has not yet been brought to Lubbock.
Shepard served 10 years' probation after pleading guilty to theft of about $30,000 in 2001, the Amarillo- Globe News reported. He also pleaded guilty bad check charge in 1999 and paid a fine. Another bad check charge was filed in September.
Associated Press writer Nomaan Merchant in Dallas contributed to this report.