People in Amarillo liked to say that Mike Dixon, a prominent plastic surgeon, and David Shepard, a failed pharmaceutical salesman, had a bromance going on. They had drinks at Butler’s Martini Bar, they watched football at Hummer’s Sports Cafe, and they popped over to Buffalo Wild Wings, where Dixon competed in trivia contests while Shepard flirted with the waitresses.
They were Amarillo’s version of the Odd Couple. Dixon, who was five feet eleven inches tall and 185 pounds, was a hardworking doctor—“very caring, very compassionate,” one nurse said—who performed as many as three surgeries a day. Shepard, who was six feet five inches tall and 380 pounds, was known around town as Big Dave. He enjoyed playing poker, and he especially loved telling tall tales. He bragged that he had once worked as a bodyguard for billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens and that he had served in the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, trained to go on secret missions.
The two men had met just after Dixon opened his medical practice, in 2003. They began running into each other at a local tobacco shop, where they sat in the smoking room and puffed on cigars. They didn’t become close friends, however, until the spring of 2010, when Shepard, who was 50 years old at the time, called Dixon, who was then 46, and mentioned that his wife had informed him that she had been unhappy for the past three or four years and wanted a divorce.
“You’re kidding,” said Dixon. He told Shepard that his wife had just served him with divorce papers. She had caught him having an affair with a 47-year-old woman named Richelle Shetina, a former cheerleader for the Kansas City Chiefs who had been coming to Sensei Med Spa, a small day spa that Dixon owned.
Dixon didn’t seem very upset that he was getting a divorce. He said that he had never before been with a woman as beautiful as Shetina. She appreciated him in ways that his wife didn’t. He told his friend that he was convinced they had a promising future together, and they were even talking about marriage.
But it wasn’t long before Dixon was telling Shepard a much different story. In September 2011 Shetina unexpectedly left him for another doctor: Joseph Sonnier, the chief of pathology at a hospital in Lubbock, a two-hour drive away. Dixon seemed to know all about Sonnier. He was tall and lean, with a thousand-watt smile. He wore tailored clothes, took ballroom dancing lessons, and went on European vacations. With a sigh, Dixon told Shepard that Shetina was now telling everyone she knew that she had finally found the man of her dreams.
One night, while the two men were talking, Dixon said he wished there was something he could do to make Shetina regret her decision—to make her realize she should have stayed with him.
Shepard gave Dixon a knowing nod and said he knew exactly what to do. He offered to follow Sonnier around Lubbock and see what he was up to. He said that he could play a few pranks on Sonnier to embarrass him in front of Shetina. Hell, said Shepard, it wouldn’t take any time at all to get her running back into Dixon’s arms. All he would need was a little money for gas, some food, and a few cigars.
Dixon asked Shepard if he was serious.
Of course, Shepard replied. He’d do anything for a friend.
Shetina and Dixon during their relationship.