By Basil Katz
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York motivational speaker paid for his own murder but the ruse to get insurance money for his family unraveled when the paid killer took the money and ran, according to testimony on Thursday in the trial of the man accused of the speaker's slaying.
Motivational speaker Jeffrey Locker was found stabbed to death in his car in 2009, and Kenneth Minor, 38, is on trial for the murder in Manhattan state Supreme court.
Jurors on Thursday heard from a former drug addict named Melvin Fleming. Fleming said he was paid by Locker to kill him.
Fleming testified that he opted to take Locker's money but not do the murder.
Hours after Fleming said he refused to kill Locker, the deeply indebted 52-year-old motivational speaker from Long Island was found dead, his hands bound and his shirt soaked in blood.
Locker took out millions of dollars in life insurance policies in the weeks before he died, prosecutors say, and hoped his family would get the payout.
Prosecutors say that after Fleming failed to follow through, Minor accepted a deal from Locker and carried out his wishes, but Minor claims he only held a knife against the car's steering wheel while Locker repeatedly threw himself upon it in an assisted suicide.
Fleming, 55, testified that Locker was intent on finding someone to kill him.
"(Locker) said it's lots of money in it for you. I'll pay you. It will be worth it," Fleming told jurors, remembering Locker's words after they randomly met on a street corner in July 2009.
"He said that he had been hanging around there looking for some gang members, anybody to kill him," Fleming testified, "and I told him, I don't think it works like that, but I might help you out."
Fleming said he accepted about $4,000 in cash, a gold bracelet and a pair of knives from Locker but when it came to the actual killing, he pretended to fetch a gun and never returned.
"I just sold him a dream just to get a few bucks and what he gave me," Fleming said.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)