The suspect in the gruesome slaying of a motivational speaker from Long Island argued for months after his arrest that the victim hired him to commit the murder so his family could collect life insurance money.
Now, in a bizarre twist, prosecutors believe Kenneth Minor may be telling the truth.
"Certain information has been discovered that tends to lend some support to that claim," Assistant District Attorney Peter Casolaro wrote in a letter to Minor's defense team.
Cops found the mutilated body of Jeff Locker, 52, slumped behind the wheel of his 2007 Dodge Magnum in East Harlem last July. The victim, a married father with three children, was discovered bound and strangled with seven stab wounds. Dtectives on the scene believed the brutal nature of the crime screamed foul play.
Soon after the slaying, police arrested Minor, 36, and charged him with first-degree murder. Detectives believed Minor, who was seen on security cameras both inside Locker's sedan and later using his ATM card, killed Locker for cash. They speculated Locker was en route to a meeting with a prostitute when Minor tortured him for the pin.
Minor insisted that Locker begged for death, even driving the knife into himself. He told cops the man paid him with his ATM card to kill him, saying that Locker wanted his family to be able to cash in on his life insurance policy. It was an unlikely story – at first.
New evidence lends some plausibility to Minor's strange tale. An investigation found that Locker, deep in debt at the time of his death, altered his life insurance policy in the days before his killing and made inquiries to funeral homes, reports the Daily News.
Minor told authorities that Locker tried to obtain a gun, but when that failed, he begged the Harlem ex-con to end his life, investigators told the paper.
"It had to look like a robbery so that his family could get what they deserve," court papers quote Minor as saying.
In light of the recent findings, Minor's attorney requested a new grand jury to weigh lesser charges of assisted suicide and second-degree manslaughter. The prosecution didn't fight the appeal, and Supreme Court Justice Carol Berkman ordered both sides to present arguments on assisted suicide upon their return to court Feb. 25.
A neighbor told the News the suggestion that Locker would orchestrate his own death was ridiculous, describing the motivational speaker as happy before he died.
"You could tell me anything you wanted except that," she said.