Day 7: Richelle Shetina testifies

Published: Nov. 4, 2014 at 3:14 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 5, 2014 at 4:19 AM CST
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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Testimony continues this afternoon in day seven of the capital murder trial for Amarillo plastic surgeon Dr. Thomas Dixon.

Dixon is accused of hiring David Shepard to kill former Covenant Chief Pathologist Dr. Joseph Sonnier III in July 2012.

Shepard has already pleaded guilty to killing Dr. Sonnier and is currently serving a sentence of life in prison without parole.

The first witness this morning was Agent Andrew Dorow, a digital forensic expert with DPS. He continued to testify about deleted text messages he recovered from Shepard and Dixon's cell phones. He also read data he recovered during his investigation about Shepard's search history around the time of Dr. Sonnier's murder. It continued the theme of evidence based testimony, which we saw a lot of last week.

There was a brief recess during Agent Dorow's testimony this morning. The jury left the courtroom for around 30 minutes after the prosecution and defense teams had a conference with Judge Jim Bob Darnell. The prosecution was asking the Judge to allow text messages that had previously been disallowed to be admitted as evidence. They felt that the line of questioning from the defense related directly to those messages. Ultimately the Judge ruled they didn't apply and kept them from the jury.

As Agent Dorow was cross examined by the defense their main argument was that the text messages presented to the court yesterday need context. They argued that without context, the jury wasn't getting the entire scope of what the men were talking about.

The defense continued to specifically ask about the search history Agent Dorow investigated and wanted the agent to clarify certain websites found in Shepard's search history. Some of the questions were about "Cheerleaders for hire" websites and other Internet forums that had men and women for hire.

The next witness was a Deputy with the Randall County Sheriff's Office. He was the investigator that found the pawn shop where Shepard sold a silver bar that Dixon gave him. He was able to use a database that pawn shops update for law enforcement officials.

The next witness was the book keeper for that pawn shop who testified that David Shepard did sell a silver bar to them and told the jury how much he received in cash.

Following her was a member of the Amarillo Police Department who was on the dive team that located the gun used in the murder. It was found in a lake in the Western Plaza are of Amarillo.

The next witness was with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. He was asked to conduct a search into the weapon. His results determined the gun was purchased in Borger in 1994 by Monte Dixon, Thomas Dixon's step brother.

It was Monte who was next on the stand. He was question by the prosecution about the gun, how he came to own it and why he gave it to his brother. He told the jury he purchased a rifle from a firearms dealer in the early 80s and the pistol was thrown in by the dealer.

The defense tried to make light of the gun and prove to the jury that it is not something a knowledgeable gun owner would purchase. They called it a "Saturday night special" and at one point the witness referred to it as a toy gun.

When the witness was passed back to the prosecution District Attorney Matt Powell asked him, "Do you think the Sonnier family thinks this is a toy?" At that point the witness responded with a somber no as the defense team objected. Recess was taken just before noon so the witness could watch a video and refresh his memory. The prosecution asked him why he told officers his step brother did not collect silver bars when he was initially interviewed in 2012.

The biggest witness of the day testified in the afternoon portion of the trial. The prosecution called Richelle Shetina. She is the former girlfriend of Thomas Dixon and was dating Dr. Sonnier at the time of his death.

Shetina sat on the witness stand with a nervous energy. Her hands were folded under her chin as she answered each question, thinking for a few moments before speaking.

She gave the jurors a glimpse of her relationship with Thomas Dixon, one that she described as volatile. She said they would often get into arguments and that on-again, off-again relationship lasted for several months.

In September of 2011 she and Dixon texted back and forth. She told him that she had fallen in love with her dance partner, that man was Dr. Joseph Sonnier. That upset Dixon who blamed Richelle for ruining his marriage.

During Shetina's testimony Dixon sat still, looking up at the screen as the text messages were read, with no visible reaction or emotion. The same reserved mood he has shown during this trial.

After the prosecution finished their line of questioning, the defense cross examined Shetina shortly after 4 p.m. this afternoon.

They tried to show that she wavered in her testimony, saying one thing about Dixon's character to officers in 2012 and another today in court. They also tried to portray her as someone who was desperate to be engaged to someone who was wealthy. The defense tried to show that through text messages she sent Dixon in 2011.

Shetina will be back on the witness stand when court resumes tomorrow morning.

We will continue to provide live updates throughout the day as the trial continues. Follow us on Twitter @KCBD11 and look for all of the latest updates on

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