- Associated Press - Saturday, May 16, 2015

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - A jury deliberated for less than two hours before convicting a Eugene man of plotting to kill his 70-year-old neighbor.

Jeffrey Wright Leonard, 57, showed no emotion Friday when hearing he was guilty of attempted aggravated murder, solicitation to commit murder and conspiracy to commit murder, The Register-Guard newspaper reported (https://is.gd/ZivNN7).

Judge Jay McAlpin scheduled sentencing for Tuesday.

Eugene police investigated the murder-for-hire plot after a Lane County Jail inmate reported in December that Leonard offered to pay him $800 to run the neighbor’s pickup into a telephone pole.

The inmate, Christian Carey, testified Thursday that he wouldn’t have killed the neighbor, but he played along when Leonard pitched the idea because he wanted to get paid.

Carey said he decided to alert authorities in the hopes it would get him out of jail following his arrest in a vehicle-theft case. That didn’t happen, but Carey said he received a reduced sentence in exchange for his cooperation. He is serving a three-year prison sentence for stealing cars.

The victim testified that he and his girlfriend endured years of harassment while living next door to Leonard, and it was bad enough that he got a restraining order against Leonard in 2013.

“Justice was served,” the victim said outside the courtroom after the verdicts were announced.

Leonard’s attorney, Clayton Lance of St. Helens, was not in court when the jury returned with its decision.

In asking jurors to acquit his client, Lance said it was unrealistic to believe a hit man would do a job for just $800. He also said Leonard never specifically said in text messages and recorded phone conversations that he wanted the neighbor killed.

Prosecutor Steve Morgan told jurors that Leonard’s idea was “not that great of a plan, as far as being effective,” but he reminded them of evidence showing that Leonard wanted Carey to kill the neighbor.

___

Information from: The Register-Guard, https://www.registerguard.com


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