Newly published body-camera footage shows the moment Texas authorities informed a 48-year-old veterinarian and her boyfriend that her ex-husband had been killed — an announcement that apparently left them stunned, though investigators allege their reaction was staged, as they were the suspects in a murder-for-hire plot which was never actually completed.
The strange investigation, which ended in the arrests of Valerie McDaniel and Leon Jacob earlier this year, will be featured on Friday night’s episode of ABC News’ 20/20.
In the body-camera footage, which will air during the episode, McDaniel is seen looking moved by the news that her ex-husband had been killed in what authorities told her appeared to be a robbery gone wrong.
Jacob, who was at her condo in Houston, was also there to learn about the “death.”
“Oh my God,” he says, according to the body-camera video “We have been here all night. We were here all day with their daughter and we were watching movies. I never met him except for once.”
But authorities don’t buy it.
“What he wants to do is establish an alibi and let us know right away it is not him,” retired Houston detective Frank Quinn tells 20/20 in the clip. “And then feigns that surprise. It was all rehearsed in my opinion.”
The couple was arrested in March and charged with solicitation of capital murder. McDaniel, who was released on 55,000 bail, jumped to her death from the seventh floor of a high-rise building just one day before she was scheduled to appear in court.
Jacob, who remains in Harris County Jail in Texas pending trial, was interviewed by 20/20 and proclaimed his innocence. He has pleaded not guilty.
“I am innocent of these charges. I still maintain that throughout,” he told ABC News. “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.”
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McDaniel reportedly met Jacob after a contentious custody battle over her daughter with her husband of 17 years. Jacob was a medical school graduate who was allegedly kicked out of more than one residency program, including one where a hospital found him to be an “ immediate threat to patient safety,” according to ABC News.
He had also been arrested and charged him with stalking a previous girlfriend — the second target in the alleged murder-for-hire plot.
McDaniel and Jacob reportedly spent about two months dating before police allege they planned to get rid of their exes.
Authorities previously told PEOPLE that the couple allegedly met with a hitman at an Olive Garden in Houston. The plan was to kill McDaniel’s ex-husband in a car-jacking gone awry while Jacob’s ex-girlfriend would be kidnapped and then killed, according to prosecutors.
However, there was only one problem: The man they were meeting was actually an undercover police officer.
“The whole thing is bizarre,” said prosecutor Tom Berg, first assistant at the Harris County Assistant District Attorney Office.
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Berg said the alleged murder-for-hire plan first came to light on Feb. 23, after investigators with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office were tipped off that Jacob was allegedly trying to have his ex-girlfriend killed in order to prevent her from testifying against him in his pending felony stalking case.
A friend of McDaniel’s told ABC News she believes it was Jacob’s influence that drew her into allegedly helping plan the killings.
“It’s something that happened to her. I truly believe that,” the friend said. “This was not something that she would’ve ever done.”
Friday’s episode of 20/20 also features audio that McDaniel made after she was arrested and shortly before she took her own life as well as an interview with Michael Kubosh, the man who alerted authorities to his suspicions about Jacob.
“I was completely turned off immediately by his attitude,” McDaniel said in one entry, of meeting Jacob.
“I was drawn to him but disgusted at the same time,” she said.
20/20 airs Friday (10 p.m. ET) on ABC.
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