Defendant takes the stand in murder-for-hire trial
HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Leon Jacob took the stand testifying in his own defense.
He was often argumentative with the prosecutor, at one point saying, “I may be a womanizer, but I did not hire anybody to kill anybody.”
Jacob and his girlfriend, veterinarian Valerie McDaniel, were arrested after investigators say they hired a hitman to kill their exes. McDaniel then killed herself after bonding out of jail. In Jacob’s trial there’s a whole lot of blaming McDaniel who isn’t here to say otherwise.
Jacob is telling the jury he thought he was meeting with a private investigator, not a hitman. He says he paid thousands of dollars to the PI for expenses to find his ex-girlfriend.
“We had multiple conversations about not wanting to harm anybody,” Jacob said on the stand. "I never asked for anybody to be killed, hurt , harmed, kidnapped".
The defendant is insistent. Jacob says he’s not guilty of trying to hire a hitman to kill his ex-girlfriend and his girlfriend’s ex-husband. "177 times during the transcripts I say I don’t want to harm her or kill anybody."
Police video was shown in court. It shows Valerie McDaniel in her apartment, with her daughter sleeping in the next room, being told by Houston police her ex-husband Mac McDaniel was shot to death.
"I don’t want to tell her her daddy’s gone,” McDaniel’s voice cracks as it sounds like she’s choking back tears. Sgt. Frank Quinn told jurors even as he delivered the news to McDaniel and her boyfriend Leon Jacob he knew they had already been told hours earlier by an undercover officer posing as a hitman.
"Are you alright sweetie? Are you ok?” Jacob asks McDaniel on the videotape as he hugs her.
Moments later Jacob and McDaniel were arrested. “Right now I’m going to read you your rights. Both of you are being arrested for Solicitation of Capital Murder." "Can I get some underwear on and some shoes?” Jacob then asks officers.
Jacob’s mother, Houston divorce attorney Golda Jacob took the stand saying she first met Valerie McDaniel when she lived next door to Valerie and Mac and later represented Valerie in her divorce from him.
"She hated him. She wished he was dead,” said Golda Jacob.
“Your testimony is she told you she wanted to take out a contract to kill her then husband and you did not report that pursuant to the rules of your professional duty?” Prosecutor Cameron Calligan asked.
“I didn’t take her seriously,” says Golda Jacob.
McDaniel can’t confirm or dispute that. She killed herself while awaiting trial. In Jacob’s trial, he’s trying to convince jurors he’s innocent.
"I never asked anybody to kill anybody,” Leon Jacob said several times.
Prosecutors believe Jacob’s own words before he was arrested will prove otherwise. He’s on police surveillance recordings asking the man he now says he thought was private investigator “You’re not the police are you?”
Jacob is trying to convince the jury he was simply lovestruck and heartbroken over Verikas breaking up with him. The prosecutor reminded him seven days after the break-up he moved in with another woman, Valerie McDaniel.
“Assassinate my character all you want. It doesn’t make me guilty,” Jacob said to Prosecuting Attorney Samantha Knecht.
Both McDaniel and Verikas were married when they began a relationship with and moved in with Jacob. Both women ended up divorcing their husbands.
On those undercover police audio tapes Jacob says several times he doesn’t want his ex-girlfriend hurt, but a number of times he goes on to say unless other options don’t work.
The defense wanted a linguistic expert to testify to what Jacob’s words meant in the police recordings but the judge did not allow the testimony.
Jacob says the day Verikas left him and broke up with him it was after they argued over money he says she took from their joint account. The prosecutor then followed up reminding Jacob he had been fired from Methodist Hospital and Verikas was the bread winner. “Your mom payed your cell phone bill right? Your mom payed your child support right? She payed for your groceries? Meghan put most of the money in that account. When you were upset with Meghan for taking money from the account it was really pretty silly because she was the one working and putting money into the account.”