Leon Jacob found guilty in murder-for-hire trial

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter, Aaron Barker - Senior Digital Editor, Keith Garvin - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - Leon Jacob, the man who prosecutors said orchestrated a plan to have his ex-girlfriend and his lover’s ex-husband killed, has been found guilty of two counts of solicitation of capital murder. 

The sentencing phase will get underway Monday at 9:30 a.m.

Jacob's possible punishment ranges from probation to life in prison.

[SCROLL DOWN TO SEE JOEL EISENBAUM'S LIVE TWEETS FROM THE COURTROOM]

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

Among the trial watchers in the courtroom who was in tears after the verdict was read was McDaniel's sister.

She expressed relief moments after the verdicts were delivered.

"I just wanted justice for my sister, and we got it," Angela Hudson said. "It'll never bring her back but I'm happy with the verdict."

WATCH: Judge reads jury's guilty verdicts against Leon Jacob

McDaniel 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.

Friday started without the jury, as Jacob's defense team again tried to admit their audio expert's testimony. The expert would have presented an alternate interpretation of the words being spoken on tape. The judge declined to let him appear in this phase of the trial. 

Jacob, smartly dressed in a black suit, white shirt and black tie, was calm, cool and collected on the stand while answering questions from his defense team.

The defense played recorded audio portions they hoped would show Jacob as someone who did not want his ex-girlfriend hurt or killed.

"I was very adamant about the fact that I didn't want anybody hurt, or anybody killed," Jacob said on the stand.

Jacob has argued he wanted his ex-girlfriend to move; he claims he did not want her killed.

He was the only witness called.

After closing arguments Friday afternoon, the jury began its deliberations.

Soon after, the judge announced jurors would recess for the weekend and pick deliberations back up Monday morning.

About 30 minutes later, the judge came back out and said the jury had reached a verdict.

Then the verdict was read and Jacob was found guilty on both counts.

Jacob had no reaction as the verdict was read.

Jacob's attorney, George Parnham, hedged when asked if, in hindsight, putting Leon on the stand served him well.

"I'm not so sure. Obviously, it wasn't sufficient to convince a jury to return a verdict of not guilty, but I think he was direct and answered questions proposed to him," Parnham said.

Deliberate jury

The jury in the Leon Jacob murder-for-hire trial indeed was deliberate -- coming back with a much quicker-than-expected verdict of guilty for the 40 year old former surgeon.

One of the targets of the plot -- Jacob's ex-girlfriend Verikas -- had nothing to say, leaving court after the verdict was read.

But the City of Houston victim advocate who has worked with Verikas and her family says the guilty verdict was welcomed news.

"Certainly she can just breathe more freely," says advocate Andy Kahan. "Knowing that the chances of him walking the streets are over. No ifs, ands or buts."

Also relieved was Hudson, the sister of Valerie McDaniel. McDaniel was Jacob's girlfriend and a suspect in the plot before she took her own life last year. Her sister was in the courtroom for the trial and today's verdict.

"It's been really hard to be here," Hudson. "But I wanted to be here to represent her and show the love that have for her and everyone else has for her."

Being questioned is the decision of Jacob's attorneys to allow him to take the stand. They say they were prepared for a guilty verdict in light of the tape evidence -- but believe Jacob was credible.

"I felt like leon was able to tell his story," attorney Matt Pospisil said. "I felt like he got that story across."

But apparently not well enough. The same jury will hear testimony starting Monday to determine Jacob's sentence.

"Based upon some of the stories that you're gonna hear on Monday that they will sentence him from what we feel is life in prison," Kahan said. "And there's no one more richly deserving to spend the rest of his life in prison."

Among those testifying in Jacob's penalty phase next week are Verikas, his ex-wife and several women Jacob is accused of having affairs with.

Channel 2 Investigates reporter Joel Eisenbaum is covering the trial. You can follow his coverage below:

Copyright 2018 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.