Texas man guilty in murder for hire

LUBBOCK, Texas — A 52-year-old man who prosecutors say was paid in silver bars by a plastic surgeon to kill a love rival in Texas pleaded guilty Thursday to capital murder.

David Neal Shepard entered the plea in the killing of Dr. Joseph Sonnier III, 57, whose body was found, stabbed and shot, at his Lubbock home in July 2012.

Judge James B. Darnell pronounced Shepard guilty and said the state is recommending a sentence of life in prison without parole. Shepard could have faced the death penalty.


Authorities say Thomas Michael Dixon, 49, hired Shepard to kill Sonnier because Sonnier was dating Dixon’s former girlfriend.

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Shepard pleaded guilty to killing Sonnier at Dixon’s behest, one of two capital murder counts on which he was indicted. In exchange for his guilty plea Powell’s office dropped a second count that alleged Shepard killed Sonnier during the commission of a second felony, burglary of a habitation.