Pastor testifies in murder for hire scheme

Former Baltimore pastor Kevin Pushia took the witness stand Thursday and outlined how he and two other men — one his occasional lover — conspired to kill a disabled man to collect the insurance money.

Attorneys said he also discussed plans to attack a former boyfriend and claimed that a hired hit man, whom he paid $50,000 in church funds, came looking for other jobs shortly after killing a legally blind group-home resident named Lemuel Wallace in February 2009.

The testimony, which is expected to continue Friday, came during the trial of Pushia's alleged conspirators: brothers Kareem Clea, who's accused of being the shooter, and James Omar Clea, who is accused of serving as a middle man in the arrangement.

They're both charged with conspiracy to commit murder, though Kareem Clea is also charged with murder and handgun violations. Pushia has pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme and is awaiting sentencing.

Pushia's attorney, Russell A. Neverdon Sr., said after the trial concluded for the day that Pushia met James Clea online. Pushia and James Clea sometimes "got together" to satisfy one another's mutual "physical needs," Neverdon said, denying that they were in a real relationship.

Pushia pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to commit murder along with seven counts of insurance fraud. He took out policies in Wallace's name totaling about $1.4 million, then listed himself and another man, Jason McFarland, as beneficiaries, according to court records.

Prosecutors said during Pushia's plea hearing last year that McFarland was unaware of the scheme, and he has not been charged. Court records show that Pushia filed for peace orders against McFarland, accusing him of assault, but that he failed to show up for hearings and the cases were dropped.

Pushia's attorney said that his client also conspired with James Clea to assault McFarland, who could not be reached Thursday.

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