Woman Sues Texas Monthly for Millions

     DALLAS (CN) — A former halftime dancer for the Kansas City Chiefs has sued Texas Monthly magazine over an article about an alleged love triangle that led to a killing.
     Richelle Shetina sued Emmis Publishing dba Texas Monthly and executive editor Skip Hollandsworth for the article “A Deadly Dance,” from the May 2015 issue. They and Emmis Operating Co. are the only parties to the case. Hollandsworth also wrote the article.
     The article is included as an exhibit in the April 21 lawsuit in Dallas County Court.
     It details an alleged love triangle between Shetina and two prominent physicians, Dr. Michael Dixon, a 47-year-old plastic surgeon, and Dr. Joseph Sonnier III, a wealthy 56-year-old pathologist.
     Shetina says the article was inaccurate and sensationalized the context and the events.
     Hollandsworth described Shetina, 53, a former Kansas City Chiefs “Chiefette,” as a “gold-digging, marriage wrecking divorcée” who became involved with men for their money, according to Shetina’s 42-page complaint.
     He depicted Dixon as an injured and obsessed man incensed that he was dropped for another man — Sonnier — and who was willing to kill his perceived rival.
     The article reports that Shetina became romantically involved with Dixon, who left his wife and children for her before she divorced her second husband — then she left Dixon in 2011 for Sonnier.
     Enter David Shepard, a former pharmaceutical salesman, whom Dixon allegedly paid three 10-ounce bars of silver worth $9,000 to kill Sonnier, according to Hollandsworth’s article.
     Shepard shot Sonnier with a .25-caliber pistol given to him by Dixon and then stabbed him repeatedly to finish him off, Hollandsworth reported. Sonnier was found in his Lubbock home the next day, July 11, 2012.
     Shetina claims the article included false and misleading information about her, including where she grew up, her work as an NFL cheerleader capable of driving men “a little bit crazy,” and, particularly, her desire to date wealthy men.
     She says she moved with her parents around the country as a child, though Hollandsworth wrote that she grew up in Southern California. She says she was never a glamorous professional cheerleader, but a 16-year-old still living with her parents when she belonged for a short time to the “Chiefettes” dance squad that performed at halftime during Kansas City Chiefs home games.
     She takes particular exception to the article’s portrayal of her as a gold-digger and marriage wrecker.
     The article states, for example, that she was “insulted” when Dixon sent her a teapot and a “tea-of-the-month-club” membership for her birthday. Hollandsworth wrote that Shetina was insulted because “she was no doubt accustomed to receiving expensive gifts from men in her life” and that she would not stay with Dixon “unless an engagement accompanied by a gigantic diamond ring were imminent.”
     Shetina says that’s inaccurate: that she was upset because Dixon had mailed her the birthday present instead of giving it to her in person.
     She also denies the article’s claim that she married her first two husbands for money. She says her first husband, her high school sweetheart, was a day laborer and that they lived in government housing while he was in college.
     Her second husband, Thomas Allen Shetina, was a young mechanical engineer who eventually found work in the oil industry, but was never a corporate executive, despite Hollandsworth’s claim, Shetina says. She says he left her for a married woman.
     The article reported that Shetina met Dixon while she was still married, but Shetina says that isn’t true, either.
     “Plaintiff Shetina did not meet Dr. Dixon until after she was divorced from Thomas Allen Shetina, and it was Dr. Dixon who sought her out, found her on Facebook and sent her a friend request,” according to the complaint.
     Shetina says she liked Dixon, but not for his money, and contrary to the article, she never planned to marry him, and Dixon never proposed to her.
     “Although plaintiff Shetina ‘truly liked’ Dr. Dixon and had a ‘good time’ with him during a portion of their relationship, the article’s statement or implications that ‘of course, the fact that he had money didn’t hurt’ were false and misleading,” the complaint states. “Shetina was only interested in the potential of a peaceful, kind, loving, caring and happy relationship with Dr. Dixon at that time. She never considered ‘the fact that he had money’ as a factor in her relationship with Dr. Dixon.”
     Shetina said the article’s claim that she began seeing other men, including Sonnier, while still involved with Dixon are untrue.
     She says Hollandsworth included many more false details about circumstances surrounding her relationships with Dixon and Sonnier, and wrongfully suggested that she should be ashamed for her role in a story that ended in murder.
     “The article stated that ‘[Plaintiff] Shetina, who is understandably chagrined by all the public attention, is doing everything she can to stay out of the spotlight until she has to return to court to testify again,'” the complaint states. “This statement is false and misleading, implying that plaintiff Shetina should be humiliated and subject to self-imposed exile — even though she has no reason to be ‘chagrined’ in this context.”
     Shetina’s attorney, Darrell Keith in Fort Worth, said his client requested a clarification and retraction of the article’s false and misleading details, and has nothing to be ashamed of.
     “We are proud to represent her and filed a very detailed petition,” Keith told Courthouse News.
     “Under Texas law, somebody who believes they have been treated improperly under the law pertaining to published articles can send a letter for clarification and retraction. In August, they [Texas Monthly] did an update online, and made some so-called corrections. She believes very strongly she was defamed by defendants and intends to pursue the case very vigorously. It’s had an extreme and harmful affect on her.”
     Hollandsworth was not available for comment. But Kate Healey Snedeker of Emmis Communications said in an email Friday: “Texas Monthly stands by the story ‘A Deadly Dance.’ We look forward to the chance to defend against this lawsuit and fully believe that the law is on our side.”
     As for Dixon, the jury in his October 2014 trial deadlocked after eight hours of deliberation.
     “The jury was split: at least two jurors and possibly as many as six said there was no way they would ever be convinced that Dixon was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” according to Hollandsworth’s article. “Without a unanimous verdict, the judge declared a mistrial and Dixon was returned to jail, on the same $10 million bond, to await his retrial.”
     Dixon was convicted of two counts of capital murder in his November 2015 retrial and sentenced to life in prison without parole, according to News Channel 10, the CBS Lubbock station.
     Shetina seeks at least $2 million in damages, and punitive damages.
     Attorney Shetina’s office is in Fort Worth.

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