Texas woman charged after giving ‘hitman’ $20000, two Rolex watches found dead day before court date – National Post
A prominent Montrose veterinarian accused of making an intricate murder-for-hire plot to kill her ex-husband killed herself Monday morning by jumping from her seventh-floor condo in west Houston, authorities said.
Veterinarian Valerie Busick McDaniel and her boyfriend, Leon Phillip Jacob, were arrested earlier this month after doling out $20,000 in cash and two pricey Cartier watches to an officer posing as a hitman, prosecutors alleged in court.
Days later, the 48-year-old Montrose veterinarian was released on $50,000 bail.
Afterward, McDaniel’s ex-husband – the target of the scheme – said he feared for his safety.
McDaniel and her husband, who divorced last year, have an 8-year-old daughter together.
A Houston homicide detective at McDaniel’s condo on Friday said the woman who apparently had jumped to her death was a resident whose parents also live there. There were no witnesses, Detective J.P. Villareal said, and no one else was home at the time. Police do not suspect foul play.
McDaniel was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday before state District Judge Jim Wallace for a status update on her criminal case.
The prominent veterinarian and her boyfriend – a washed-out medical resident – are charged with solicitation of capital murder in an intricate murder-for-hire plot that had been hammered out a few days earlier in an Olive Garden restaurant.
They were arrested after a “hitman’ showed them crime-scene photos of the bodies of their victims.
One photo showed a man lying lifeless. Another showed a woman bound and gagged.
McDaniel and Jacob blanched at the sight, then handed over $20,000 in cash and two Cartier watches in payment for killing their exes, prosecutors said in court.
And that’s when police moved in. The hitman was instead an undercover officer and the crime scenes were staged.
“They didn’t want to look at the pictures,” Harris County Assistant District Attorney Nathan Moss said Monday in court. “They said, ‘Oh, we don’t want to see them, but here’s the money we owe you.’
McDaniel, 48, and Jacob, 39, appeared in court last week wearing handcuffs and orange jail uniforms, facing up to life in prison if convicted.
She is not a victim. She was brought to the meeting and discussed with the officer exactly how she wanted her ex-husband killed
No possible motives were outlined in court. But McDaniel, who owns the upscale Montrose Veterinary Clinic and lives in a River Oaks condominium, was hit last year with a $1.3 million divorce settlement; Jacob was facing charges he stalked his ex-girlfriend this year after she refused to reconcile, according to court documents.
McDaniel’s attorney, Matt Alford, suggested the veterinarian was drawn into the plot by Jacob.
“She clearly came into this situation after the fact,” Alford said. “She was on no one’s radar until the very end of the investigation, is my understanding.”
It was a theory soundly rejected by prosecutors.
“She is not a victim,” Moss said. “She was brought to the meeting and discussed with the officer exactly how she wanted her ex-husband killed. In no way is she a victim.”
Moss said it’s not unusual for officers to stage a crime scene, with victims wearing bloody makeup and posing for photos as though they’d been killed.
“When we know there are going to be high-priced lawyers, we want to make sure the case is solid,” he said after Monday’s hearing. “The Houston Police Department Major Offenders unit is very good at this.”
Lawyers for Jacob did not comment after Monday’s hearing.
The death of McDaniel’s ex-husband was supposed to look like a carjacking gone wrong, Moss said. To bolster the fake hitman’s story, police officers were sent to McDaniel’s front door to notify her as next of kin.
Jacob had arranged for his ex-girlfriend to be kidnapped so he could kill her himself but instead deferred to the hitman, prosecutors said Monday.
Details are emerging about the case, Moss said, but he told the judge the couple paid a “facilitator” $10,000 to arrange the killings. Instead of finding a hitman, however, the facilitator went to the police weeks ago, he said.
The ex-husband and former girlfriend could not be reached for comment.
McDaniel divorced last year, two years after the case was filed. She was ordered to make the cash payment to her ex to equalize the estate and surrendered ownership of a $720,000 waterfront home on Tiki Island in Galveston, records showed.
In exchange, she kept the veterinary business and the building that houses it at 1701 Montrose Blvd., among other properties, according to court documents.
The divorce also listed sizable debts on the business, and state records show the company faced tax forfeiture several years ago.
The couple shared custody of their daughter, but that changed Friday when the ex-husband was granted a protective order against McDaniel.
The judge ordered her not to have any contact with her ex or the child if she made bail.
McDaniel is the daughter of Carole Ann Busick, a Houston psychologist who pleaded guilty to tampering with mental health evaluations for peace officer candidates, a problem that left more than a dozen police agencies in the Houston area scrambling to retest officers to ensure they were fit for duty.
Busick, and her husband, licensed professional counselor Don Busick, who is identified in court records as McDaniel’s father, were sentenced to 10 years’ probation. The Busicks relinquished their professional licenses and retired from their practice, according to the plea deal reached with Harris County prosecutors.
The Houston Chronicle
The New York Times News Service