Did Jeffery Locker hire his own killer?
Produced by Patti Aronofsky and Elena DiFiore
(CBS News) - New York City Police Detective Robert Stewart started noticing all sorts of strange things when Jeffery Locker was found stabbed to death in front of a Harlem housing project in July 2009.
"It was strange that he would end up down there, huh?" "48 Hours Mystery" correspondent Richard Schlesinger asked Det. Stewart.
"Absolutely was," he replied. "Jeffery Locker was an upper middle class individual with a nice home on Long Island.
Locker was 52, the father of three. His Facebook page was filled with images of a tight-knit family.
There was a reason it looked like he was a victim of a robbery. "His ATM card was not amongst his belongings," said Stewart.
"Poor guy comes in from Long Island...next thing you know, he's slumped dead at his steering wheel," said Laura Italiano, a reporter for the New York Post.
To Italiano, it fit a pattern every New Yorker has seen before: Jeffery Locker was in the wrong place at the wrong time and trusted the wrong people.
"You know...suburban cautionary tall -- lock your doors when you drive through some neighborhoods," she said.
But then a witness told police Locker bought condoms in a local store, detectives suspected Locker was looking for a prostitute.
"The double life story is a much better story," said Italiano.
Steve D'Annunzio knew Jeff Locker for almost 30 years. And he had news for the reporters and the cops. There was no way Locker was in Harlem to visit a prostitute. Locker was devoted to his wife Lois.
"He was a respectful and a faithful family man," D'Annunzio said. "One of the last things he said to me the last time we were together was 'Lois is my best friend.'"
Jeffery Locker speech: My wife told me this morning I can't even say hello in 15 minutes.
Just a few weeks before Locker was killed, D'Annunzio was at a family celebration in honor of Lois and Jeff's daughter.
"It seemed like it was a gala event," D'Annunzio said. "...one of the most loving families I ever met."
The police theories were collapsing. Despite what that witness said, police could find no evidence that Locker bought condoms or was looking for sex or drugs. Police did know Jeffery Locker had no business being in that neighborhood. His business usually took him far from Harlem... closer to Wall Street.
Jeffery Locker speech: Life is all about timing.
That's where he became a very successful motivational speaker, specializing in the insurance industry.
Jeffery Locker speech: How do we keep our existing clients knowing we love and appreciate them while we're fishing for new prospects?
"My image of Jeff is of a well dressed guy, who oozed success," said insurance executive Robert Miller. Miller says Locker seemed to know how to encourage insurance salesmen who, he says, frequently feel under appreciated.
Jeffery Locker speech: When I gotta make prospecting calls, it's pretty easy to go, "The dogs got to go out." "Oh my wife needs me to do that."
"Nobody likes to go out and make a dozen calls and have everyone say no to you," said Miller.
In the early 1990s, Al Brodbeck hired Locker as his personal business coach.
"He was very self-confident. He had good presence," Brodbeck said. "He'd go over various activities -- what he felt I was doing right, what I could do better at."
A few years later, Brodbeck didn't need Locker anymore and he lost sight of the man who seemed for so long to be a rising star. But Locker still had that house in an expensive suburb on New York's Long Island when NYPD detectives went to tell Locker's family he was dead.
"It's never easy to tell somebody that they just lost a family member. But it's part of the job," said Det. Kevin Flynn.
Detectives Flynn and Jeff Hershman braced themselves for what is almost always a highly emotional, traumatic meeting. But they needn't have bothered. They don't think Mrs. Locker got very emotional nor did the kids when the detectives watched her break the news to them.
"They didn't seem to take it as a shock," said Det. Hershman.
"I remember the daughter saying that she's going back to bed," Flynn recalled. "...it was like we were telling them something they already knew. ...and then we walked out the door, Jeff looked at me and I looked at Jeff. I asked him, 'Are we in bizarro world?' Unless this is the way they handle grief, which could very well be possible, I'm not making any judgments. That was weird. It was just weird."
They told other detectives about their visit with the Lockers. But the case started moving quickly. Surveillance cameras caught pictures of a man entering Locker's car around the time police believe Locker was killed and leaving shortly after. Then, police heard from Locker's bank about that missing ATM card
"We received at least five different locations in which someone accessed the victim's ATM card," said Det. Stewart.
Whoever it was got $1,100. And it was all caught on security cameras. Police quickly got these videos from corner stores and small businesses all over the neighborhood.
"At each location it was the same individual using the ATM card," said Stewart.
"We had stills made of the pictures... And eventually somebody says...'that's Kenneth Minor.'"
They hauled in Kenneth Minor. It wasn't his first brush with the law. He had a record of drug violations and a robbery... a sad profile that fits many murderers. But Kenneth Minor had a story unlike any other murder suspect.
"Nobody wanted to believe me," Minor told Schlesinger.
It all started when he met Locker on a street corner in Harlem.
"What did he say?" Schlesinger asked Minor.
"He said he was looking for a gun," he replied.
"Yeah," Minor replied. "I asked him, 'What do you want it for' and he was quiet for a second, and then he told me: 'I want you to shoot me.'"
"He said it just like that?"
"Just like that."
For more than 10 hours, Kenneth Minor sat in the interrogation room telling police essentially nothing.
"They came in all gung ho, 'Murder one, robbery, we got you ...you just killed this rich man' ...and I just sat there with a smirk on my face like, you know, you have no idea. You know, this is not what happened," Minor told Richard Schlesinger.
"I mean, how do I broach the situation,' Minor continued. "How do I even start to open up and tell 'em... Who would believe this story?"
He wanted to explain that Jeffery Locker had asked -- in fact -- practically begged to be killed. Finally, he found what he thought were the right words: "This was a Kevorkian," he said.
Detective Robert Stewart was one of the detectives talking to Minor.
"He said this man wanted to do a Kevorkian," Det. Stewart told Schlesinger.
"Like Dr. Kevorkian? The suicide doctor?"
"I said '[Kevorkian]...do you know what that means?'" Minor said, referring to the detective. "He said, 'Yeah, suicide.' I said, 'OK, there you go. Now have a seat.'"
He was ready to tell his story. It began on that street corner in Harlem.
"I had a real drinkin' problem. ...And I needed to make a couple extra dollars," Minor said. "So I was buyin' drugs...and re-sellin' 'em at a higher price. ...And then Mr. Locker pulled up."
Locker got out of his car.
"You could tell by his body language that he wanted something and he didn't know how to ask for it," Minor continued. "So I approached him, 'What do you want?'"
Locker, he says, wanted someone to get him a gun.
"That's when I told him to get outta here...'You gotta be police. Get outta here.' He jumped in the car and he left," he said.
Asked what happened next, Minor told Schlesinger, "He came back, which impressed me."
"So at that point, Kenneth says he leans into the car. And Jeffery Locker tells him, 'I want you to shoot me,'" said Stewart.
"'I want you to you know, to shoot me to kill me,'" said Minor.
"Jeffery Locker says to Kenneth Minor, 'I want you to shoot me?' I mean, in your 37 years as a detective, have you ever had anybody say something quite like that?" Schlesinger asked Stewart.
"No. No, this was the first," he replied.
"Do you remember how he said, 'I want somebody to shoot me?' Do you remember what tone of voice he had?" Schlesinger asked Minor.
"It was, a quiet, like, it was eerie," he replied. "I thought he was pulling my chain...But it got my attention."
Minor says he wasn't interested in shooting Locker just yet. But he thought he might make some money if he could sell Locker a gun.
"So he tells him, 'Give me $60 and your phone number and I'll go see if I can find somebody to help you,'" said Stewart.
"He came up with $60 pretty quickly," Schlesinger noted.
"Yeah," Minor said. "There you go."
"Kenneth Minor tells him, 'I'll call you,'" said Stewart.
Kenneth Minor knew just where to go to spend his newfound money. He headed straight for an acquaintance's apartment.
"By all accounts, Kenneth Minor buys crack...gets high," said Stewart.
Asked if he was able to get Locker a gun, Minor said, "No."
"He says he called Jeffery Locker," said Stewart.
"I told him that, 'It don't look good right now. And, well, let's meet up and I'll tell you face to face. I don't want to say it over the phone,'" Minor explained. "I wasn't all the way sure of his intentions...I wanted to see if I could, you know, finagle a few more dollars without -- without having this turn bad."
"On the way out of the apartment, [Locker] says he rips a section of phone wire from the wall," said Stewart.
"I was a little paranoid at the time," Minor continued. "And -- couple people saw me...use the phone. I was drinkin' heavily. I might've...done a few drugs. ...So I wasn't thinking clearly."
"Seemed like a good idea at the time," said Schlesinger.
"It seemed like a perfect idea at the time," said Minor.
"To take the phone wire."
"Looks like I wasn't here."
Minor got back into Locker's car.
"At first I was just tryin' to explain to him about not bein' successful in getting what he wanted," Minor said. "And then...he took a phone call, 'Oh, my peoples are callin' me.'"
Asked who was calling, Minor replied, "I think it was his wife. He was like...'I got a flat tire...it's bein' take care of' ...some guys were helping him. I found it kinda amusing that he was lying."
Minor was starting to worry about what Jeffery Locker would ask him to do now that he could not get him a gun
"That's when he said it again, 'I want you...to kill me,'" Minor said. "I said, 'Why don't you just go and jump in the river? 'S right there.'"
"And what did he say?" Schlesinger asked.
"'I need it to look like a robbery,'" he replied. "And he explained to me why."
Minor says Locker wanted his family to collect millions of dollars from his life insurance policies. If he committed suicide, there would be no pay out. So it had to look like he was murdered. Locker apparently believed he was worth more dead than alive.
"...he started explainin' to me...that he got caught up in some Ponzi scheme." Minor continued. "...that he had all kinds of lawsuits against him....and that he was losin' everything. ...And to him, that was like death in itself."
"Losing his money was like death?" Schlesinger asked.
"Losing everything. Not bein' able to support his family the way that they were used to...accustomed to," Minor explained. "...to him it was like, 'No, this is it. If you don't do it, somebody else will. But this is gettin' done.'"
"That's what he said?"
"'This is getting done,'" said Minor.
"Did he seem scared?"
"Maybe a little sad, maybe a little sad because you know, that he loved his children," Minor told Schlesinger. "He kinda reached me in that car, just talking to me, you know. Just, like, you know... I'm just like you from a different side of the tracks."
"Did he show you picture of his kids?"
"What did you think?"
"I don't know," Minor said. "There was no talking him off the ledge at that point."
Minor says Locker promised if he helped him he could clean out his bank account. So Locker gave him his ATM card and PIN.
"I still know the number," he said. "1322."
But, according to Minor, killing Jeffery Locker was not easy. He couldn't find a gun. So he tried to strangle Locker with the phone wire. But that didn't work either.
"The wire popped," he said.
So Minor says Locker told him to take a knife out of the glove compartment and hold it against the steering wheel.
"He says that Jeffery Locker then lunges forward four times into the knife," Det. Stewart said. "Then, Jeffery Locker tells him, 'Move it to the right side where my heart is.' So then Kenneth Minor said that he moves the knife to the right side and he lunges forward into the knife two more times."
"So wait a minute," Schlesinger said. "He's lunging forward?"
"This is Kenneth Minor's story," said Stewart.
"Was he still alive when you left the car?" Schlesinger asked Minor.
"Yeah, very much so," he replied.
"Yeah," Minor said. "It was gurgled...but he also turned and looked at me...he just had a smirk on his face...I think I said something to him like, 'You got what you wanted. You happy now?'"
"There was a unanimous guffaw over this story," said New York Post reporter Laura Italiano.
Italiano says Minor seemed like just another killer concocting an impossible story to beat the rap. His tale was good for a laugh, but not much else. And after he told it, Minor was charged with murder.
"Defendants will say the darndest things when they're trying to save their necks," Italiano said. "...a guy from Long Island comes into the ghetto shopping for his own murderer, who's ever heard of this?"
And the police, who thought they'd heard everything, were about to learn that's exactly what Jeffery Locker was doing.
"He had tried this before?" Schlesinger asked Stewart.
"So as crazy as this story is sounding to you -"
"It didn't get any less crazy," Stewart said. "It just started to make sense."
"I couldn't believe what he was proposing," Kevin Minor said. "'I want you to...kill me. ...I need you to help me out.'"
Kenneth Minor's own defense lawyer, Dan Gotlin, didn't believe his story that Jeffery Locker wanted Minor to stab him to death.
"I absolutely didn't believe it," Gotlin told Richard Schlesinger. "My first reaction was this is as likely as there being a new life form on earth. I thought no way this could be true."
That was before he heard about Melvin Fleming and his meeting with Jeffery Locker.
"I met him at 128th Street and Park Ave. in Harlem," Fleming told Schlesinger.
It was just days before Locker's death. Fleming asked Locker for a quarter.
"He gave me five bucks!" Fleming said. "I said, 'Hey, thank you. If there's anything I can ever do for you just let me know.'"
Of course, Fleming says Locker did have something in mind.
"He said, ' I've been trying to find some gang members to whack me.' I looked at him and said, 'Knock you off?' He said, 'Yeah, you know, make me dead.' I said, 'Wow, that's a big request. You know the mob pay a lot of money for doing a job like that and little kids is double.'"
Fleming says he knew a money making opportunity when he saw one.
"I said, 'Sure I could help you.'"
And Fleming says that's when Jeffery Locker spelled out that same bizarre plan Minor says he talked to him about -- arranging his own murder, so the Locker family could collect millions of dollars in life insurance.
"He definitely said to me it has to look like a robbery and my body has to be left where it can be found," said Fleming.
Schlesinger asked, "Do you remember what you thought?"
"I thought, 'Well, I got a guy here that I can take to the bank,'" Fleming replied.
For two nights, Fleming and Locker drove around Harlem. Fleming says Locker was looking for the best place to get killed.
"Melvin kind of thought the entire thing was fairly humorous," Det. Stewart said. "He knew that he wasn't going to do it."
It was Locker's bad luck. He hoped Melvin Fleming was a killer, but he was really just a con man.
"Con men don't go around killing people. They con people," said Fleming.
Fleming says he conned Locker out of almost $7,000 in cash that Locker was carrying around.
"He really believed me that I was going to do this for him," he said.
Fleming says Locker thought a Harlem bus terminal would be a good spot to die.
"How many ideas did he have for ways that you could kill him?" Schlesinger asked Fleming.
"Stabbing 'em, shooting 'em, and hitting him over the head here," he replied.
But by now, Melvin Fleming just wanted to get out of there with his money. So he told Locker to drive to the nearby housing projects instead - where Fleming promised he would get a gun and kill Locker.
"I asked him just to sit there in the car, roll the window down, put the seat belt on. ...I'll be right back," Fleming explained.
Of course, he never came back. He says he left a desperate Jeffery Locker to find someone else to kill him. And within hours Locker found Kenneth Minor.
"Do you believe that Jeffery Locker wanted to die that night?" Schlesinger asked Det. Stewart.
"One-hundred percent," he replied.
"Do you believe he wanted Kenneth Minor to kill him that night?"
Locker's friend, Steve D'Annunzio, says he was certain Locker would never plan his own murder.
"My first words outta my mouth was. 'Don't believe it. Don't believe it,'" he said. "That is not something that this person that I knew for 27 years would ever do."
But the evidence was starting to pile up.
"The detectives and the prosecutors began to look into Locker's financial history," said Murray Weiss, a seasoned police reporter and a CBS News consultant.
Weiss says investigators discovered Locker had a lot of financial problems.
"Mr. Locker was in debt, he had a very heavy mortgage on his house," he said.
On top of that, Locker he was being sued for more than $300,000, resulting from an investment that turned out to be a Ponzi scheme.
"I would say that Mr. Locker was backed into a very bad financial corner. I think he saw that there was only one way out for him," said Weiss.
That may be why in the months before he died, Jeffery Locker purchased a staggering amount of life insurance.
"There were $12 million... little more than $12 million actually... I think $12,150,000," said Dan Gotlin.
"If you take out an insurance policy, you can't just jump off the bridge the next day and expect to collect," Schlesinger noted. "He had to make this look like a murder?"
"Correct," said Weiss.
And Kenneth Minor says it was his strong impression that the Locker family knew all about it.
"Absolutely," Minor said.
"Why do you think that?" Schlesinger asked.
"Because the way he told me he said bye to everybody," Minor replied. "I mean he didn't just say, 'Bye, I'm going to work. I'll be back later.'"
"He said goodbye as in -"
"He crossed all his T's and dotted all his I's," said Minor.
"And his family knew he was off to end his life one way or another?"
"One way or another, he was gonna take one for the team," said Minor.
Melvin Fleming says he heard the same thing.
"He said his family's familiar with it and they're OK with it and he has to do this," he said.
And police found evidence that, Dan Gotlin says, shows Locker's family may well have known what he was planning. He'll show the jury a text message from Locker's teenage son written just days before Locker's death.
"It talks about a video that the father's apparently making," said Gotlin.
He's telling his father to include a special message for his 13-year-old sister and says: Remember you won't be there to give her away...it's an important milestone for a woman getting married to also have her father so if you could also add in hers that u will be there in spirit giving her away.
"Which would lead one to believe that the son must've known that the father was planning something," said Gotlin.
No one from the Locker family would speak to "48 Hours Mystery" for this story. And no one from the Locker family has ever been charged with any wrongdoing in this case. The Locker family's friend, Steve D'Annunzio, quickly and strongly defended them.
"Is it possible that if there were financial problems that Lois and the kids might in a weird way sort of welcome -- a decision to stage-- a killing?" Schlesinger asked D'Annunzio.
"No," he replied. "Lois is the kinda person to say, 'OK, we have money problems. If we have to go bankrupt, but you don't kill yourself. You don't do that.' No. Completely impossible."
But Dan Gotlin will base Minor's defense on this argument: Locker got what he wanted -- his own, carefully orchestrated death. It was really suicide. And Minor was just a pawn in Locker's end game.
"He was taken advantage of -- he was taken advantage of by Mr. Locker," said Gotlin.
Jeffery Locker speech: If the timing is right, carpe diem -- you must seize the moment.
"He was a motivational speaker," Gotlin continued. "He motivated my client with enough to convince him to do this for him."
"You gotta be one heck of a motivational speaker -" commented Schlesinger.
"If you pick on the right person - you do it," said Gotlin.
Gotlin will argue some people pick poison, but Locker picked a person, Kenneth Minor, to help commit suicide... and solve all his problems.
"I knew it wasn't murder. I knew it wasn't murder." Minor said. "I just happened to be the building he jumped off. It wasn't murder."
Kenneth Minor's trial for killing Jeffery Locker is now under way. And even though almost nobody in the courtroom doubts that Locker wanted to die, the prosecutor argues Minor is still a murderer.
"It's the defendant who brought us to this point... He's the one who chose to kill somebody. He's the one who said, 'Yes' instead of 'No,'" Prosecutor Peter Casolaro addressed the court. "The right thing to do would have been for Mr. Minor to tell Locker that, 'I will not be part of your scheme.' The right thing to do would have been to walk away."
Casolaro says Minor could have done what Melvin Fleming did.
"Melvin heard the same speech. Melvin...was offered the same money. But Melvin didn't kill anybody," Casolaro told jurors.
Minor says this is a case of assisted suicide. But Casolaro says there's one reason Minor killed Locker: It's cash, not compassion.
"Mr. Minor is going to ATMs within a half hour of that death," Casolaro continued in court.
"That doesn't look good. That begins to look more like murder than assisted suicide?" Schlesinger asked defense attorney Dan Gotlin.
"Well in a sense it was a murder for hire. But it also is assisted suicide," he replied
Gotlin will argue that his client, Kenneth Minor, spent hours with Locker... enough time to establish a weird kind of relationship.
"People make connections with other people under strange situations," Minor told Schlesinger. "It might sound a little morbid, but I was kinda privileged to be, like, to be there for, like, you know, this is, like, your last, you know. Nobody else will ever see you again. Nobody. And you chose me."
And so Minor says he held the knife against the steering wheel and just watched as Locker threw himself on it again and again and again.
Asked if that's possible, Det. Robert Stewart told Schlesinger, "I don't believe so."
"What do you think happened?"
"He stabbed him...no question," Det. Stewart replied.
"I believe what my client said sounds truthful...And very possibly was truthful," Gotlin told Schlesinger.
"And how many times did Locker lunge onto the knife?" Schlesinger asked.
"I think there were six times," said Gotlin.
"How come the horn doesn't go off?"
It was one of the first questions Gotlin himself asked. And the answer, he believes, helps prove his case. Gotlin sent his investigator, Michael Barry, to examine Locker's car. The horn didn't work.
"I believe Locker disconnected it or pulled a fuse," Barry said. "And that tells me...right then and there that that's how well...prepared Jeffery Locker was...to get someone to assist him in his suicide."
All of which, the defense says, means the police got the right man but the wrong crime. This was not murder.
"You did offer to plea to a lesser charge," Schlesinger noted. "To manslaughter?"
"Correct. From day one," said Gotlin.
It's a big difference. Manslaughter means a maximum 15 years in jail. Murder could mean life.
"I've always said I will pay for what I did. I will pay for the part that I played," said Minor.
Minor says he helped Locker die, but he didn't kill him.
"I never saw him as a victim," Minor told Schlesinger.
"But he's dead?"
"You know, that was a self-appointed choice," said Minor.
And that is what Dan Gotlin wants the jury to know about Jeffery Locker.
"He killed himself. That's what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it to make it look like a robbery murder for one simple reason, so he could screw the insurance companies, screw his creditors, and everybody else that -- that had to collect money from him that he was stiffing over the last several months. That's what happened here," he told the court.
Except the medical examiner says it was homicide. All the wounds were in a tight 6-inch cluster in Locker's chest.
"The medical examiner claimed...that the wounds appeared to be coming from one side downward in," crime reporter Murray Weiss explained. "The contention basically was that somebody sitting in the passenger seat...would be reaching over and plunging a knife in."
But Gotlin has his own medical expert.
"I see nothing here that is physically, forensically, scientifically inconsistent with Mr. Minor's presentation," said Cyril Wecht, Gotlin's star witness.
Wecht is a controversial forensic scientist most famous for insisting there was a second gunman in the JFK assassination. He thinks Locker had Minor tie his hands so he wouldn't have second thoughts once he began killing himself.
Wecht agreed to show "48 Hours Mystery" how easy it would have been then for Locker to throw himself on a knife.
"We're gonna show with this collapsible knife of course, how this could have been accomplished," Wecht said, lunging forward into the knife while sitting in the driver's seat of a car. "So you see all of that accomplished in a matter of a few seconds."
But if Locker wasn't in control of his own death and Minor attacked him from the passenger seat, Wecht says Locker would have had different wounds on his body, which he didn't.
"Joe, pretend that you're going to be stabbing me now. You wanna stab me, OK," Wecht says to the man in the passenger seat as he moves, trying to get away from the knife.
"[I'm] trying to get away. See, and a heck of a lot more than that nice 6-inch circumference we have on the chest," Wecht pointed out.
"I still, to this day, have trouble imagining somebody actually doing this to themselves, hurling themselves onto a knife," said Schlesinger.
"Well that's because you've never seen...what people can do when they make up their minds to commit suicide...I have seen people who have shot themselves repeatedly, people have stabbed themselves repeatedly," Wecht said. "...once you make up your mind then that's it."
"But what people I think can't get around in this case is the simple fact that stabbing yourself that many times would, to use a technical forensic term, hurt like heck?" said Schlesinger.
"Yes, it hurts. It hurts when it goes through the skin,' Wecht explained. "When it penetrates the heart and lungs, there's not much pain."
"I respectfully disagree," Casolaro said in court. "It has to be more painful than that."
And it has to be messier too, says Casolaro, who asked why the steering wheel and the dashboard were so clean.
"How can you have these gaping wounds and not leave a single drop of blood, if you're throwing yourself forward again and again and again?" Casolaro asked. "His shirt got saturated with blood, totally saturated. You mean not one drop of it is going to come off and go forward?"
Wecht has an answer. He says Locker didn't hit major blood vessels. The shirt got soaked with blood afterwards when his wounds continue to bleed.
"It's really a battle of experts," Gotlin said. "Who you choose to believe."
And that's what the jurors are about to decide: who to believe and what to believe about Kenneth Minor and his intentions on that night... in that car.
"Is the defendant an angel of mercy?" Casolaro asks the court. "No, he's the Grim Reaper."
After a two-week trial, a jury is about to pass judgment on Kenneth Minor.
"You think he's a contract killer? Or somebody that was duped and used by another human being?" defense attorney Dan Gotlin addressed the court in his closing arguments.
"Don't dignify this by calling it assisted suicide, call it what it is," said prosecutor Peter Casolaro in his closing.
Murder... plain and simple.
"Why did he do it? He did it to earn his fee," Casolaro continued in court.
Prosecutor Peter Casolaro, in his closing argument to the jury, says despite what defense attorney Dan Gotlin argues, Kenneth Minor murdered Jeffery Locker.
For at least one juror, Kirt Markle, it's not so simple.
"Watching...the prosecution, the defense...there's this veneer of truth about everything," he said. "Locker really comes across-- in a rather unsavory way."
That made it easier for the jury to have some sympathy for Minor.
"He was picked out to do this thing...he didn't seek it out," Markle told "48 Hours Mystery." That's what made it so difficult. ...Because the sympathy for the man was enormous.
"Why would you do this thing? What could possibly want to make you do this thing?" Markle wondered. "It's not just about greed. ...These two men in this death spiral...downward, downward, downward. ...It was unsettling to all of us."
For such a difficult case, it's surprising that the jury was out just four hours.
The verdict: Guilty.
The jury might have sympathized with Minor, but they did not believe him. Because, Markle says, Minor is no Dr. Kevorkian and this was no assisted suicide.
"Locker is not physically impaired. He's -- his whole reasoning is financial," said Markle.
The jury decided Minor did a lot more than just hold the knife against the steering wheel; he stabbed Locker, and that makes it murder. But Gotlin says there's plenty of room for an appeal because according to law, it shouldn't matter what Minor did because Locker wanted Minor to kill him.
"So your view is that if Locker is intent on committing suicide, Minor can do anything. Can shoot him, hang him, stab him, throw him under a bus," Richard Schlesinger commented to Gotlin.
"He can do all of those things according to the state...if he causes or aids the other person in committing suicide," Gotlin replied.
The appeal will take awhile, but now Kenneth Minor is about to learn his sentence.
Minor addresses the court - it's the first time he's spoken on the record in this courtroom.
"Only two people in the world know what happened that night and one of them is not here no more," Minor told the court. "But he did not want this for me -- for me to lose the rest of my life...in the end, Mr. Locker's where he wanted to be..."
"I actually thought there was probably some truth to that," crime reporter Murray Weiss said. "Jeffery Locker was where he wanted to be and Minor was sitting there holding the bag."
But in the end, the judge sees it differently, sentencing Minor to 20 years to life.
"I got 20 years to think about this every day," Minor told Schlesinger.
To this day, Kenneth Minor says he's still not sure why he did what he did for a man he didn't even know.
"Two strangers go bump in the night. They just have a connection," Minor said. "Why didn't I just hit him over the head and take his money and leave?
"I don't know what sense of loyalty that I had to a total stranger," he continued. "And it's like a recurring tape that just keeps playin' over and over in my head."
Locker's widow and his three children were never in the courtroom to hear anything Minor said. They didn't attend any of the trial, and have never spoken publicly about the outcome, but their friend, Steve D'Annunzio, is wrestling with his own questions. How could Locker, who seemed to have every reason to live, decide it was time to die?
"Do you believe in your heart that this was murder or was it suicide?" Schlesinger asked D'Annunzio.
D'Annunzio sighs before answering. "I don't know. The left side of my brain says it was suicide. The right side of my brain says it was murder...And I wanna believe in my friend. So I'm choosing to believe that it was murder. ...Will we ever know the truth? I don't think so."
Locker's widow is suing to get $4 million worth of life insurance from a policy he bought a month-and-a-half before his death.
As for the other $8 million in policies, the insurance companies refuse to say whether they paid the family.
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