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tv   2020  ABC  March 30, 2018 10:01pm-11:00pm PDT

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why would you want your husband killed? >> i didn't wake up one day and just say, hey, i want to kill my ex-husband. >> tonight on "20/20," the explosive court case that just wrapped. >> accused of wanting to hire a hitman to kill his ex. >> a prominent successful veterinarian and a single mom recording her most private thoughts. her handsome boyfriend doctor, a ladies man with a past. >> without sounding pompous, i have always understood women really well, and they have always liked me. >> together, did this pair of doctors write a prescription for murder? >> accused of hiring a hitman to kill the respective exes. >> i'm not some monster that wanted my ex-girlfriend killed and her ex-husband -- >> cooking up a plot at the olive garden. >> police say the happy couple
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ordered up something that was not on the menu. >> tonight, we're taking you inside the elaborate sting to trap them. >> why are we under arrest? >> the bodycamera arrest, the gotcha moment. >> what was it like to see your best friend go from wearing doctor scrubs to an orange jump suit? >> his jailhouse interview. >> i really wouldn't hurt a fly if i didn't have to. >> that'squalifier. >> and the biggest shocker of all, the couple taking part in their own staged fake death. >> i can't believe i was there. >> what i can't understand is are you dr. jekyll or mr. hyde? >> he thinks he is someone else. >> i want bradley cooper to play me in the movie. >> toxic love. >> i'm elizabeth vargas and this is "20/20." now matt gutman.
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>> it's valeri mcdaniel. it's march 15, 2017. i'm sitting outside, and i wanted to take time and tell my story. from the gi from the beginning. try not to judge me. >> reporter: it's been said memory is the diary we carry with us. 48-year-old valeri mcdaniel put her memories into an audio diary she recorded on her ipad. thoughts about her daughter. her adventures as a new divorcee. >> a 48-year-old woman trying to start to date. not a good thing. >> reporter: it sounds as if she is harboring a bone-chilling secret. >> i never wanted to hurt anyone. i hate the idea that everybody thinks i'm a monster. >> reporter: a monster? that's not a word her friends would ever use to describe her. >> valerie was an amazing human being.
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she had a light with -- within her. >> i felt honored to have her as my friend. she was so successful and so beautiful and funny and intelligent. >> reporter: she seemed to have it all. a veterinarian with a practice so successful she was able to live in river oaks, the beverly hills of houston. and spend her weekends in a $700,000 beach home where she often invited her friends for parties. >> we always karaoked. ♪ >> it was a lotta fun. we swam. we just enjoyed each other's company. >> she would always prepare these amazing dinners for us -- >> now, when you guys had these dinners there was one thing that was always missing, and that is valerie's husband. >> uh-huh. >> correct. >> what did she tell you about her marriage? >> she did not feel loved. her husband was never around. >> reporter: valerie complained to those friends that mac, her husband and business partner at
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the pet clinic, was always out doing his own thing like hunting. but valerie later confided to them she thought he was really out hunting other women. she says a woman called the clinic one day claiming to have proof. >> she gave me lists of women that he had slept with. >> she knew that there had been some adultery. i knew that because she talked to me about it. >> and it's hard to watch someone in that much pain. >> reporter: so much pain she filed for divorce after 17 years citing "conflict of personalities and adultery." >> it was a bitter split but they did agree on shared custody of their now 9-year-old daughter. >> she was just unhappy. there was a void that wasn't being filled there. >> reporter: until that is, she meets this man, leon jacob, a brash doctor eight years her junior. >> valerie is one of the most amazing human beings that -- i'd
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ever met. she was nice and kind and giving and educated and a great mother. >> reporter: they met by happenstance when valerie still miserable in her marriage lived next door to leon's mother. >> without sounding like a pompous ass, i can describe it as i have always understood women really well and they have always liked me. >> you were very attracted to her. >> i saw her in a bathing suit, and if you want me to be open about it, that's when i first noticed that she was a knockout and i was attracted to her. >> reporter: he was a man raised with privilege. he attended the best private schools. winter breaks were spent skiing in vail summers in maine. >> i'm an avid golfer and skier. and i work out a lot. >> reporter: after college, he went to medical school in the caribbean. >> i'm a very driven type a alpha personality male. but i have a heart of gold. >> i was lonely.
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and he kept me company. he listened to me. it was everything i needed. >> reporter: the now single mom finally finding love again and it looked as if they're both finally free for one another after leon and his girlfriend split up. >> one night we were laying on our balcony. she looked at me and she said, do i have you? and i said, yes. >> reporter: soon after, he unofficially moves into that luxury condo. >> she was very much in love with him. she said it multiple times. i'm completely in love with him. reporter: but valerie's friend maggie had some misgivings about leon. >> what didn't you like about him? >> very arrogant and full of himself. i've just never seen anything quite like that and i've got a pretty strong intuition about people, and i did not feel good about it. and i let her know that. >> reporter: but valerie wouldn't hear it. the dashing doctors with seemingly so much in common. >> we talked science together, we both loved astronomy, we had a telescope in our apartment, we
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used to look at the -- you know, the constellations. >> that sounds like 57 days of bliss, right? isn't that the number you put on it? >> yes. >> reporter: but you know what they say if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. prince charming was not so charming. turns out the good doctor's medical background was hardly professional. fired from two different residency programs. one where supervisors found him a threat to patient safety. >> when i hear, "he has a medical degree," i immediately think, "oh, well, where is he practicing medicine?" nowhere. >> reporter: by the time he met valerie, the only surgery he was doing was cutting himself off from creditors by filing for bankruptcy. and in the romance department? a checkered history as well for example his first wife, annie. >> we would fight, fight, fight, and love, love, love, fight, fight, fight, love, love, love. it was just -- it was one of those relationships that people are like, "god, they're crazy, but they're their crazy, and we love that."
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>> reporter: but after 11 years, annie must have had enough crazy. she filed for divorce and would later press charges for aggravated stalking and intimidation. court documents say he made calls, sent texts and e-mails threatening to inflict bodily harm. >> i'm going to [ bleep ] hurt you. i'm going to hurt your [ bleep ] parents right in front of you. do you understand me? >> attempted cyber harassment is what i plead guilty to. yes. she went a little overboard with her complaints about me. >> reporter: perhaps, but the complaints became a problematic pattern. he was about to start dating an attractive woman named meghan verikas and leon had troubles with her too. >> according to the police report, you busted her lip -- >> okay -- >> when you put -- >> that's true -- >> -- your hand on her. >> i never put any hand on her. we were fighting, i shouldn't have put my hand anywhere near her face. i shouldn't have touched her in any way. i was simply trying to calm -- but she bit my hand, and in that time, she bit her own lip.
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and subsequently, that charge has been dropped because there was no evidence. >> reporter: charges dropped, yes, but leon won't let meghan drop off his radar. >> but you kept on pursuing her, despite the fact that she told you not to? >> i kept on pursuing her for a little bit, yeah. >> reporter: but cops do charge leon with stalking. >> the ex-girlfriend says that he hides in the bushes and waits outside her workplace. >> reporter: again, you're charged with stalking and, you know, they caught you in the bushes outside of her office building. >> there are -- >> building -- >> no bushes out -- there are no bushes outside her office building -- >> they caught you loitering outside her office -- >> she -- she says that. people can claim a lot of things, right? you can say -- you know, "superman came down and took me into kryptonite -- you know, krypton for the weekend." it doesn't make it true. >> reporter: what is surely true though is apart from the stalking charge leon was also courting. and the newfound romance between leon and valerie would soon bloom into something very dark, very disturbing.
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>> are you a person who's capable of murder? >> no. i'm not. i -- i really wouldn't hurt a fly. if i didn't have to. >> that's quite a qualifier. >> reporter: stay with us -- i accept i don't bike the miles i used to. i even accept i have a higher risk of stroke due to afib, a type of irregular heartbeat not caused by a heart valve problem. but no matter where i ride, i go for my best. so if there's something better than warfarin, i'll go for that too. eliquis. eliquis reduced the risk of stroke better than warfarin, plus had less major bleeding than warfarin. eliquis had both. don't stop taking eliquis unless your doctor tells you to, as stopping increases your risk of having a stroke. eliquis can cause serious and in rare cases fatal bleeding. don't take eliquis if you have an artificial heart valve or abnormal bleeding. while taking eliquis, you may bruise more easily... and it may take longer than usual for any bleeding to stop. seek immediate medical care for sudden signs of bleeding, like unusual bruising. eliquis may increase your bleeding risk if you take certain medicines.
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>> reporter: houston, texas. affectionately nicknamed "the big heart." the perfect backdrop for leon jacob, a wannabe surgeon whose linked-in page would have you believe he's transplanting hearts by day, all while capturing hearts by night. >> reporter: you know how to talk to women. >> yeah, i do. i respect them very much. and most men don't treat them that way. >> reporter: by now, he's in the loving arms of a new woman, successful single mom
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valerie, mcdannell. -- mcdaniel. but this couple has some obstacles before they can get to happily ever afterpart. first of all, leon's ex-girlfriend, meghan, may be gone, but her stalking charge still dogs him. >> i'm not 100% sure to this day why she ran away like she did. >> reporter: you can't get a medical license in texas with a felony. could there be a prescription to cure that problem? >> and according to prosecutors the way that he's goin' to eliminate that problem is by eliminating her. >> reporter: that's right, the man who took an oath to "do no harm" is allegedly trying to do in his ex-girlfriend, meghan. investigators say, that's what leads leon to this guy. his name is zach, a former army sergeant. he swears he can complete the mission, in exchange for $5,000 in cash, two cartier watches and a laptop as a down payment. but -- here's the thing. >> the prosecutor said that zach
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is much more of a conman than a hitman. >> reporter: according to investigators, zach takes the money and runs, without ever firing a single shot. >> that was zach's story. he said he was never going to go through with the murder. >> reporter: feeling swindled, cops say leon tries to hunt down zach, and begins his search with a guy who has seen his share of shady characters. >> reporter: how does a nice fella like you get involved in something like this? >> well, i bonded somebody out of jail. and his name happened to be leon jacob. >> reporter: meet bail bondsman michael kubosh. his life is putting up cash to get people out of jail and tracking them down if they don't pay him back. kubosh says when he bonded leon out of the slammer for allegedly stalking meghan, leon asked him if he could chase down zach. >> and i said, well, why do you need zach? he said, i paid him a lot of
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money to take care of this matter. i said, to take care of what? he said, i want her out of the picture, and the way he talked to me i thought i was talking to satan himself. >> reporter: kubosh is worried enough to call the cops. they contact megan and get her to a safe house, and then they haul in the would be hit man zach and turn up the heat on him. he agrees to help investigators set a trap. >> they have zach call -- leon and say, "hey, i got a guy. he's gonna do the hit for us." >> reporter: but that new guy is actually an undercover cop named javier. we've been asked to not show his face. >> once i am involved in the murder plot that we are able to control the situation. >> reporter: javier says as the call continues, everything is going according to plan until leon poses a jaw-dropping question. >> when they're talking on the phone, leon says, "are they
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gonna take care of both issues?" >> reporter: did he just say both issues? >> so h.p.d. is learning, "oh, there's a second person they're trying to take care of." >> upon hearing that i was shocked that leon wanted two people killed. >> reporter: and that second victim, none other than valerie's ex-husband, mac. turns out the other obstacle in the budding, very dark, romance was on valerie's side, and she and leon were both in on the scheme. >> leon did tell me that he also wanted to have valerie's ex-husband removed from the picture. >> and at that point, they decide to meet at the olive garden. >> reporter: the olive garden, with its family-friendly ambiance, not really the kind of place you'd expect a murder-for-hire strategy session to go down with an otherwise normal looking amorous couple. >> it was very obvious to me during that first meeting that leon was serious about killing meghan and mac.
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>> reporter: so they were sitting at this table? >> yes. >> reporter: at this very table, somewhere between the breadsticks and the bolognese, sits one strange quartet. the vet, valerie, beau leon jacob, zach and undercover officer javier posing as a contract killer. >> reporter: what did they look like when they came in here? >> so valerie had actually come in from work, so she was literally wearing scrubs from the vet clinic along with doctor mcdaniel monogrammed on the scrub jacket. >> reporter: wow. so, again, not trying to hide her identity? >> no, not trying to hide her identity at all. >> reporter: cops say, leon has made his target clear. the "good doctor" even suggests a method, injecting meghan with potassium chloride to stop her heart. >> he told me on more than one occasion, that his survival is more important than hers, that he was a lot more important than her. >> reporter: as leon and zach take a cigarette break, cops say the undercover javier and
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valerie are left alone to discuss intended target number two, valerie's ex, mac. >> and i asked her, are you sure you want to do this. and she said i have no other choice. he's going to take my baby from me. she was worried about him taking full custody of the girl. >> and he finally gets her to say that she does, in fact, want him to be killed. >> reporter: and that's when he said, "well, if you want that done, it's gonna be another $10,000." and valerie said, "okay, i have to pay you out in installments of it, but i'll pay you $10,000." >> reporter: money is tight for valerie thanks to that divorce settlement. she agreed to pay her ex over $1 million for his share of the vet clinic. >> she had just gotten divorced and taken a loan out of $1.2 million to pay mac mcdaniel as part of the divorce. so liquidity may have been an issue for them. >> reporter: so she had to pay $1.25 million in the divorce? >> she had to take a loan out. >> reporter: it may not have been on the menu, but the cops say, two murders were ordered here. coming up -- cops make a house call, as cameras roll.
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>> i'm afraid we have some bad news. >> reporter: the elaborate charade by police to smoke out the alleged conspirators, is caught on tape. >> why are we being arrested? >> reporter: next. this weekend at kohl's! and take an extra 20% off! carter's dresses are just $17.60! van heusen dress shirts are $27.99! save on lc lauren conrad dresses and samsonite luggage! plus get kohl's cash! everything for easter - kohl's cash for you! kohl's! ♪yeah, i just wanna tell you right now that♪
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tell your doctor about all the medicines you take and if you're pregnant or planning to be. ♪ otezla. show more of you. >> reporter: it's time for the check at this olive garden restaurant and picking up the tab for that delicious, affordable and conspiratorial lunch is dr. leon jacob and his girlfriend, dr. valerie mcdaniel.
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>> i believe leon and valerie paid for the bill. >> reporter: that was very nice of them. now remember, the cops say leon and val thought they'd been dining with a hitman, but javier was really an undercover cop. so police spring into action. immediately reaching out to valerie's ex-husband, mac, to tip him off. and what they get mac to do next is right out of a john grisham novel. >> they do a series of pictures of him dead. >> reporter: he agrees to pose for these photos, staging his own death, complete with a bullet wound in his head. >> we wanted to make it look like he had been killed in a robbery. we took a series of them, one slumped over the steering wheel and shot in the head and the other one laying on the ground, shot in the head. >> reporter: cops have also gotten to leon's other target, his ex, meghan. does she express any surprise that leon jacob, the -- the man who loved her so much and then
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stalked her, allegedly -- would want this to happen to her? >> she is in no way surprised that this happened. she knew that he had a temper. he would explode, and now that she was denying him access to herself, like, he became obsessed with her. >> reporter: meghan also agrees to staging her own set of pictures to make it look like she's been kidnapped. >> leon kept using the word disappear. or he would say, "i want her gone. i want her to go away forever." and i took that to understand that he wanted her dead. >> reporter: but javier says, in the middle of depicting the harrowing scene, it's suddenly all a little too real for meghan and she breaks down. >> meghan became hysterical. she was very scared for her life. and she actually began to cry and she began to tremble. >> reporter: the doomsday photo shoots are done and the cops are ready to take their next step in their elaborate sting operation, informing leon and valerie that mac has been killed. still posing as that hitman,
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javier says he breaks the news in person at the condo. >> i begin to tell valerie and leon that mac was gone that it was done. i then asked leon if he wanted to see a picture, and he told me that he did not want to see anything. >> reporte >> if this was a mistake, if they weren't supposed to go kill the person, kidnap the person, the response would be, oh, my goodness. what have you done? >> reporter: instead, cops say, leon produces the blood money. >> lee job gives me the cash and i count out $1,800. >> reporter: according to cops, in leon and valerie's minds, with mac dead, meghan is next. and later that same day, javier says, he informs leon, that job too is done.
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meghan is now a memory. >> she's uh, she's dead. she's gone. >> you already took care of it? >> yeah. i know you had concerns about the body and everything, we'll take care of the body. >> so at that point, we've closed both cases. but we decided we wanted to go an extra step. and so that extra step was the death notice. >> reporter: a death notice. now, that's what cops call it when they have to notify a family member or next of kin that a loved one has passed. so now it's these police officers who have to give a performance. just days after that olive garden meeting, sergeant frank quinn and other officers show up at that apartment to break what should be shocking, tragic news for valerie. >> yeah, come in. what's going on? >> reporter: now remember, it's all a ruse to get valerie's reaction. and it's all being recorded as potential evidence on police body cameras.
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>> i'm afraid we have some bad news. your ex-husband, found, it looks like it turns out to be a fatality. looks like it might've been a robbery-gone-wrong. sorry to have to tell you. have you heard from him recently? >> i heard from him last night. >> reporter: valerie's response doesn't seem particularly appropriate, according to sergeant quinn. >> it was not what you would expect. in reality, you'd wanna know how do you know this? are you sure it's my ex-husband? you'd definitely have a lot of questions, and a lot of grief, >> reporter: in the video, valerie sits quietly, putting her head in her hands. >> now your boyfriend, you might want to let him know what's going on. and i'm sorry. >> reporter: soon enough, leon emerges from the bedroom. >> her ex-husband's been found. >> oh my god. >> looks like a might've been a robbery-gone-wrong.
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>> holy [ bleep ] >> if anybody knows anything or -- >> no. >> might be abe to help. >> reporter: now, listen carefully to what leon says next. because cops say it's sounding like he's establishing his whereabouts. >> are you okay, baby? we've been here all night. we were here all day with their daughter and we were watching movies. >> what he wants to do is establish an alibi. let ya know right away it's not him. you know, and then feigning that surprise, it's -- it was all rehearsed, in my opinion. >> reporter: is it strange for a man who hasn't been yet accused of anything to immediately offer an alibi, unsolicited? >> absolutely. i think right there that's great evidence for us. >> reporter: more than enough, police now believe, to end the masquerade. >> alright, well, i'll tell you we'll need you to come with us. and -- >> oh, so i guess i'll stay.
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>> okay. well, right now we're going to read you your rights. both of you. >> me? >> cuz both of you are being arrested. >> for what? >> for solicitation of capital murder. >> why? >> solicitation of murder. >> why are we being arrested? >> just put your palms together. >> reporter: oh, and there's yet another surprise for valerie in store. as she's being hauled off to jail, someone's waiting outside her front door. it's her ex-husband, mac, back from the dead, waiting to take custody of their young daughter. >> he stands at the threshold of the apartment. they allow her to go get her daughter. she brings the daughter to the threshold and then hands the daughter off to mac. >> reporter: and that was the last time that she saw her daughter? >> it was. >> i wonder what was going through her mind at that moment that she handed her over to the man she tried to murder? knowing that it was all over. >> reporter: her child, her career, her freedom, but valerie's love for leon endures for one final kiss.
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they both were on their way to face justice. but only one of them will make it to the trial. stay with us. you're gonna do great! thanks, dad! break a leg! aflac?! not that kind of break. oooh! that had to hurt. aflac?! not that kind of hurt. yeah, aflac paid us cash in just one day to help with our car payments and mortgage. aflac! perfect timing! see how aflac helps cover everyday expenses at this weekend at kohl's! and take an extra 20% off! carter's dresses are just $17.60! van heusen dress shirts are $27.99! save on lc lauren conrad dresses and samsonite luggage! plus get kohl's cash! everything for easter - kohl's cash for you! kohl's! you won't find relief here. congestion and pressure? go to the pharmacy counter for powerful claritin-d. while the leading allergy spray relieves 6 symptoms...
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>> reporter: ordinarily, doctors wear scrubs. but not these two. at least not today. led into court wearing orange jumpsuits, charged with allegedly hiring a hitman to kill both their exes. >> thank you. >> reporter: four days after the arrest, valerie was released on a $50,000 bond. after a couple days in the cooler, she says she needs to chill out and goes to see her
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friends. why would you want your husband killed? >> she really did not talk about it -- at all. i think she knew that -- it was an uncomfortable situation for everyone. >> we were all trying to be upbeat and positive and, like, "it's going to be fine. we can work through this. we -- you know, we'll -- we'll help you out." >> we'll support you. >> but she seemed a little -- >> resigned. >> maybe a little defeated. there was a look in her eyes that i hadn't quite ever seen before. >> reporter: a haunting look that becomes a final moment between friends. >> in hindsight, i immediately realized she came there to say good-bye. >> reporter: just two days later, in a move that stuns those friends and the community, valerie leaps to her death from her seventh floor balcony. >> the death of a murder for hire suspect who jumped from her own condo balcony today. >> people fell to their knees, crying. it was completely -- just lately
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shocking. >> i don't want to say it. i got a call, and i didn't want to believe it. >> reporter: in one final, loving gesture to her friend maggie, she pens this letter just before jumping to her death. >> can you read it? >> dear maggie, i'm so very sorry for what i have done. but i am just not strong enough to fight all the battles ahead. i'm tired and so scared and so weak. be well and say -- stay safe. all my love, valerie. >> losing her career. and -- her reputation. and i just think she wasn't going to -- she just didn't want to live like that anymore. mostly losing her daughter -- >> absolutely. >> it was just as much a shock to me as it was to everybody else around her. >> reporter: did you hold yourself responsible for her suicide? >> no. that was a decision she made on her own. >> reporter: so you never thought for a minute that maybe you'd put her in a position that she just couldn't handle, and that it drove her to commit suicide?
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>> no. she had so much pressure on her, and i wasn't there to help support her. >> reporter: leon, who was never released on bond, asked a judge to allow him to attend valerie's funeral. but his request was denied. >> valerie mcdaniel left a note detailing her final wishes before apparently jumping to her death from that condo. >> reporter: she also left behind that audio diary she recorded. a suicide note in her own voice read from beyond the grave. >> i didn't wake up one day and just say, "hey, i want to kill my ex-husband." things just gradually happened. >> reporter: however it happened, prosecutors say there is no question valerie wanted her ex-husband dead, and actually confessed to it -- after her arrest -- on that video outside her apartment. >> they keep having to tell her
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to speak up, and she says things, like, you know, you wanted to have your husband killed? you know, you can't nod. you have to say yes. and she'd be like, "yes, that's what i wanted." >> valerie mcdaniel, no matter how educated she was, no matter how brilliant or loving she was, seemingly fell under the spell of leon jacob. >> reporter: val's friends blame leon. do you think he's responsible for her death? >> yeah. >> she wouldn't be where she is now if it wasn't for him. >> how does valerie get from well-respected vet, to hiring a hitman, to suicide? i think that you're going find this lynchpin of that is leon jacob. >> i do want people to understand that this was not something that she wanted to happen. it's something that happened to her. i truly believe that. this was not something that she would've ever done. >> reporter: maggie points out in the short eight-week period leon and valerie were together,
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she saw her friend only once. >> she wouldn't hang out with her friends anymore, which is all classic stalker method of operation. you cut 'em off from their friends. you seclude them. >> reporter: leon denies keeping valerie from her friends. >> you know when you're first in a -- new relationship you kind of isolate yourselves with, you know, with each other. >> reporter: but despite everything that's happened, in her recorded suicide note, valerie never turns on leon. >> i know it's going to upset a lot of people, but i love him. >> reporter: she may have loved him, but she also left him to stand trial alone. leon says prosecutors have got him all wrong. >> i am innocent of these charges. i still maintain that throughout. i find them to be atrocious in manner because i'm not some monster that wanted my ex-girlfriend killed and her ex-husband. i'm a healer by nature. >> reporter: when we come back, prosecutors tell a jury leon's not a healer.
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he's a hirer of hitmen. >> leon jacobs does not stop until he gets what he wants. >> what i'm trying to understand is, are you dr. jekyll or are you mr. hyde? >> reporter: and for the first time, meet the would-be victims, the people behind those gruesome and fake photos. >> they zip tied my hands and my feet, and they put duct tape around my mouth too, to make me look as if i had been kidnapped. >> reporter: stay with us. we took legendary... and made it liberating. we took safe... and made it daring. we took intelligent, and made it utterly irresistible. we took the most advanced e-class ever... and made the most exciting e-class ever. the 2018 e-class coupe and sedan. lease the e300 sedan for $569 a month at your local mercedes-benz dealer. mercedes-benz. the best or nothing. living healthy is a balancing act. that's why i love light & fit greek non-fat yogurt. each delicious cup contains 12 grams of protein and 80 calories.
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>> reporter: last week leon jacob walked into a packed houston courtroom ready to face down charges that he masterminded the planning of a double murder.
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>> jaw-dropping testimony and riveting photos. >> how they wanted their exes to be, quote, taken care of. >> it would be a, quote, quantum leap to believe that jacob wanted dead the ex-girlfriend he once so loved. >> reporter: our abc station ktrk there every step of the way. >> all right. good morning ladies and gentlemen of the jury. we're ready to proceed with that. is the state ready? >> one of the things you'll learn about leon jacob is he has to be in control. leon jacobs does not stop until he gets what he wants. >> reporter: prosecutors tell jurors that what leon wanted was a new life with a new wife, valerie. >> there was two obstacles to the defendant's new life with valerie mcdaniel. it was mac and it was meghan. >> like many of us here today, leon's made some mistakes in life. >> reporter: leon's defense starts with that classic refrain. there's no perfect man, but -- >> it does not make him guilty of solicitation of capital murder. >> reporter: instead they point the finger squarely at the police saying their undercover hitman entrapped leon for their own purposes.
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>> hey realized this could be the case that makes their career. they forced these people to make decisions they did not want to make. >> reporter: prosecutors waste no time in calling the two people who were never supposed to testify because they were supposed to be dead. >> all right. we're ready to continue. >> the state of texas calls meg b -- meghan verikas. >> reporter: first up, leon's ex-girlfriend, meghan verikas who testifies about the abuse she suffered that ended their relationship. >> and ultimately did police bring charges in that case? >> yes. >> do you know what charges were filed? >> assault against a family member. >> she then characterized his continuing efforts to contact her as a man who was desperate as a man who was persistent. a man who would not give up and she said certainly she was beyond frightened. >> he was calling, texting, e-mailing. he actually showed up at my place of work. >> did you seek further protection from the defendant? >> i did everything i could to stay away from him. >> reporter: prosecutors say
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leon didn't just want to see megh meghan. he wanted to see her dead. and that's where those staged pictures come in. >> do you know why they wanted to take photos of you? >> because somebody had been paid to kill me. >> reporter: valerie's ex-husband, mac mcdaniel, also tells jurors about his gruesome headshots. >> did the officers ask you to do something for them? >> stage my own death. >> is that you laying face down with that pigs' blood all over you? >> yes, ma'am. >> he said the entire time in the back of his mind were thoughts of his young daughter. >> if they would have been successful, natalie would have not had any parents. >> and that thought upset you. >> unimaginable. >> reporter: but the centerpiece of the prosecution's case will be the audio secretly recorded by that undercover hitman. >> clearly the strongest
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evidence against leon jacob were his own words. >> if she's gone, all this goes away. >> at least to start, i need a $2,500 payment. >> you will get the payment. >> the uh, potassium injection whatever you said it was. >> you think i could do it myself? >> yeah it's easy. you've got to inject it in the groin. >> the groin? not in the heart? >> hell no. you can't have a needle mark. >> reporter: but even his own damning words can't dissuade a guy like leon jacob from doing what we rarely see. take the stand in his own defense. >> state your name for the ladies and gentlemen of the jury. >> leon. leon jacob. i never asked to have anybody hurt, killed harmed kidnapped. >> reporter: but what about his words on those recordings? jacob says he was just following the lead of the people he was talking to. >> i felt a lot of pressure to sort of commit to this idea of
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killing people, and that was never my intent. so i think that i took a much more aggressive tone with them. >> we're taking care of both problems. >> both problems. >> her and him. >> reporter: when prosecutors get their shot at jacob, it doesn't take long to ruffle his feathers. when they bring up how quickly he moved on from meghan to valerie. >> that that would have put you sleeping with valerie mcdaniel just seven days after you and megan broke up. >> correct. the math is correct. >> so when you tell the members of this jury that you're heartsick over meghan hast -- that's not really true, is it? >> i have no problem sitting here and saying that i slept with valerie seven days after megan and i broke up but i'm not on trial for being a womanizer. i'm on trial for solicitation of capital murder. so you can assassinate my character all you want to here, it doesn't make me guilty of what you charged him with. >> reporter: prosecutors say what does make him guilty of that are those recorded conversations they have.
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>> meghan will be taken care of too this week? >> yeah. >> i was just having a conversation about possible scenarios. i wasn't giving him any directions. >> did you not want anybody hurt when you said inject her with potassium chloride, stop her heart, untraceable. >> i said that was up to him. you could do. i didn't say that for him to do that. >> i'm going to show you what has been entered into evidence. >> reporter: and when confronted with that picture of meghan tied up and terrified leon acknowledges he saw it and thought it was real. >> and in seeing this picture you agree with me at no time did you tell officer durand "well time out. stop this gone too far. i don't want any part of this." you never said that did you. >> not those exact words. i did not. >> we'll see you back at 9:30 in the morning. >> reporter: with leon's testimony wrapped up both sides rest their cases and now the only words anyone is waiting to hear are from the jury. what will they decide?
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and even from jail, leon has big plans to cash in on the crime. this weekend at kohl's!
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>> reporter: even before the verdict is in, leon, ever the optimist, ever the planner, seems eager in this jail house call to capitalize on his newfound notoriety -- >> it's a good story it's something you'd want to read a book about. >> i want bradley cooper to play me in the tv movie. >> no. that's not me, no. >> reporter: back in this downtown houston courtroom, it takes the jury barely an hour to come to a decision. >> i think that spoke volumes in this case. >> we the jury find the defendant leon phillip jacob guilty of solicitation of capital murder as charged in the indictment. >> you did not see a physical outward change in emotion on his face or in his body. >> reporter: and now the jury will determine if he should go to prison and for how long. to help them do that, prosecutors call a bombshell witness.
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>> annie morrison. >> do you know an individual by the name of leon jacob? >> yes. >> how do you know him? >> he is my ex-husband. >> reporter: if there was any doubt for jurors about what leon jacob is capable of his ex-wife and the mother of his two children puts all that to rest. >> there was a time we got in a fight and he pulled a knife on me. he would push me, um, grab my arms or my shoulders. kick me. push me against the wall. he threatened that if i ever left he would kill me. he said that nobody would ever find my body because he's a doctor and he has access to chemicals that would dissolve my body. >> this defendant cannot be trusted to live among us. he's terrorized too many people for too long. the only appropriate punishment in this case is life. >> reporter: and the prosecutors get their wish.
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sentenced to life in prison. the man of so many words, suddenly at a loss for them. >> do you have anything to say? >> no, sir. >> reporter: and it's meghan varikas, the woman he wanted dead, who gets the last word addressing leon directly -- >> i believe everything happens for a reason. you took away my sense of security, but you can do that no more. >> you're a guy with some of the best pedigree around. how does a guy like you end up in a place like this? >> that's a really good question. i don't necessarily have an answer for you, you know, i've been knocked down a bunch in my life, and i always got back up. >> reporter: but it seems like this time it will be tougher to do that. >> while you sit in jail i hope you think of me it's because of me you will be in prison for life. enjoy life in prison. >> leon jacob's defense team is appealing his conviction. he will be eligible for parole in 30 years.
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in the meantime, our question for you tonight, how much of a role do you think valerie played in the plot? let us know on facebook and twitter. in the meantime, that's our show for tonight. thanks so much for watching. for david and all of us at abc and "20/20," have a good night and a great weekend. new information tonight backs up an ireport about a
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