'Absolutely not' guilty: Leon Jacob takes stand at his murder-for-hire trial

By Ryan Korsgard - Reporter, Aaron Barker - Senior Web Editor, Lea Wilson - Digital News Editor

HOUSTON - Leon Jacob, the man accused of orchestrating a plan to have his ex-girlfriend and the ex-husband of his lover killed, testified Thursday on the third day of his trial.

Jacob and his girlfriend, Valerie McDaniel, were charged last March with soliciting capital murder after they were accused of trying to arrange the deaths of Jacob’s ex, Meghan Verikas, and McDaniel’s ex-husband.

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McDaniel later committed suicide by jumping from the River Oaks high-rise where she lived.

Investigators said Jacob and McDaniel offered $20,000 and two Cartier watches as payment for the hits.

Jacob testified Thursday that he never arranged to have anyone killed and that he only hired someone to investigate Verikas after the couple had decided to part ways. He said that he only had conversations about not wanting to hurt or harm anyone.

Jacob also told prosecutors he still loved Verikas even though he quickly moved on.  

On the stand, Jacob said, “I’m not on trial for being a womanizer.  I’m on trial for solicitation of capital murder. You can assassinate my character all you want to be, it doesn’t make me guilty of what you’ve charged me with.”

He said he is "absolutely not" guilty of murder.

Jacob said he paid the investigator $10,000 after the investigator recommended the sum be given to Verikas so she could restart her life after the breakup.

Valerie McDaniel arranged for services to be provided by the undercover officers and paid them, Jacob said. He said he was not fully aware of the services she was requesting.

The defense Thursday cross-examined the undercover hit man and tried to make the case that Jacob never actually said that he wanted the hit man to kill them.

Financial investigators testified that Jacob withdrew $25,000, but the defense said there's nothing illegal about withdrawing money.

The former head of the major offenders unit showed video of the death notification via body camera footage.

"What's goin’ on?” asked McDaniel as she greeted at least six Houston police officers as they entered her high-rise condo in River Oaks on March 10, 2017.  They said they were there to tell her that her ex-husband, Mack McDaniel, was dead following a robbery gone wrong.  

A police supervisor said, "I'm afraid we have some bad news. Your ex-husband has been found."

McDaniel said she did not want to tell her 8-year-old daughter. McDaniel said, "I don't want to tell her daddy's gone."  Soon Jacob came out of the bedroom.  

Police said that, without being asked, Jacob instantly offered an alibi for Mack McDaniel's death.  

Jacob said, "We haven't been out of the house all day with their daughter.  We were watching movies."

Moments later, Jacob and McDaniel were handcuffed and arrested.  Free on bond, McDaniel jumped to her death 17 days after her arrest.

The defense is expected to rest its case Friday and the case could then go to the jury.  

Court will reconvene at 9:30 a.m. Friday morning.

Reporter Ryan Korsgard is live tweeting from the courtroom. Follow along in the window below:

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