One still summer night in July 2009, Jeffrey Locker was found dead in his car in East Harlem, N.Y., with seven stab wounds to the chest and no ATM card in his wallet. It looked like a robbery — it was supposed to. But it wasn’t.
Locker, a debt-ridden motivational speaker, had allegedly hired 6-foot-4 ex-con Kenneth Minor to help him stage his own murder. He knew his family couldn’t collect life insurance on a suicide. But a deadly robbery would do it.
Minor has since claimed he held the knife against a steering wheel in the car while Locker thrust his body into it. Prosecutors have admitted Minor was hired but that he went a step beyond assisted-suicide when he stabbed Locker seven times. Minor was convicted of murder in 2011 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. His conviction was reversed in 2013. And Monday, the man now dubbed the “Harlem Kevorkian” received a revised 12-year term.
“I had the chance to do the right thing, and I didn’t,” Minor, 41, said Monday during sentencing. “I failed Mr. Locker that night because of my own greed. I’ll never let that happen again.”
Locker, a 52-year-old husband and father of three children in Long Island, was partly known for his motivational work. He had co-authored a self-help book in 1998 and gave speaches on managing work-related stress. But perhaps he was better known for his investment in a $300 million Ponzi scheme run by Lou Pearlman, manager of the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync. The incident put him in financial trouble, the Associated Press reported.
Locker had been plotting a way out. After his death, investigators found his plans, including his research on funeral arrangements, e-mailed instructions to his wife on how to manage their assets “when I am gone” and records showing the millions of extra dollars in life insurance he bought before pulling his assisted-suicide scheme.
The day before his death, police said he made several calls to an apartment in a New York housing project. The next night, he pulled $200 from an ATM machine, according to the New York Daily News. Minor said Locker gave him the ATM card as payment.
When police found Locker on July 16, 2009, he was sitting in a parked car with a cord wrapped around his neck and stab wounds to the heart, lungs, liver and aorta, the paper reported. At the time, police thought there may have been two killers — one in the back seat and one in the front.
Two years later, Minor was convicted for murder.
Minor’s original murder conviction was overturned last year because the judge told jurors assisted-suicide was murder. (It’s second-degree manslaughter in New York.) Then last month, Minor accepted a plea deal. He pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and got the 20-year sentenced reduced to 12, a spokesman with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office told Reuters. He will also get credit for the five years he already served, but he planned to appeal the new conviction.
“Every choice I made, I made myself,” he said in court. “And I accept responsibility for what I did.”