Staged photos of kidnapping revealed at bizarre murder-for-hire trial

Staged photos of kidnapping revealed at bizarre murder-for-hire trial
Staged photos of Meghan Verikas sent to ex-boyfriend Leon Jacob (Credit: CBS)
Leon Jacob (Credit: Photo provided to CBS)
Leon Jacob (Credit: Photo provided to CBS)

(CBS News) - A target in a bizarre murder-for-hire plot in Texas broke her silence in court on Wednesday. Prosecutors believe Dr. Leon Jacob hired a hitman to kill his ex-girlfriend, Meghan Verikas, who had accused him of assault and stalking after their breakup – charges that threatened to end his medical career.

Verikas described in startling detail what it was like to pose for photos meant to trick her ex-boyfriend Leon Jacob into thinking she had been kidnapped by the hitman he allegedly hired, reports CBS News' Peter Van Sant.

"I sat in a chair in a warehouse and they zip-tied my hands and my feet and put duct tape around my mouth to make me look as if I had been kidnapped," Verikas said in court on Wednesday.

Marion "Mack" McDaniel – whose wife was dating Jacob – was another alleged target. He also spoke publicly for the first time.

"What did you do for them?" the prosecutor asked McDaniel, who responded, "Stage my own death."

Prosecutors allege Leon Jacob, a surgeon, along with his girlfriend at the time, veterinarian Valerie McDaniel, offered two hitmen Cartier watches and $20,000 to carry out the murders. The discussions were captured on undercover police video.

But the men Jacob and McDaniel were speaking to last March were not killers for hire. They were undercover operatives including Motaz Azzeh, a decorated U.S. Army veteran recruited by Houston police. The other is an undercover officer we can only identify as "Detective Javier."

"There was no doubt in my mind that Leon wanted Meghan killed," Javier said. "She was under the belief that I was going to carjack him….And I was going to put a bullet in his head."

After the fake hitmen said the targets were dead, police went to the couple's Houston high-rise apartment where the suspects appeared to act surprised. Officers later ended the charade and put Jacob and McDaniel in handcuffs.

"I'm innocent and as a human being and as a physician, that thought of killing somebody else is, just goes against everything in my nature," Jacob told Van Sant last year.

The prosecution is likely to wrap up its case Thursday. The defense is expected to argue Jacob was pressured by the undercover agents to order the murders and, in a dramatic twist, Jacob himself will take the stand to argue that point. Valerie McDaniel took her own life last year.

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