Couple accused in murder-for-hire plot against exes appears in court
HOUSTON – A Houston veterinarian and her live-in boyfriend, who are charged with soliciting capital murder, made their second appearance before a judge on Monday.
Court documents show that Valerie McDaniel, who has an 8-year-old daughter, was arrested Friday, along with her boyfriend, 39-year-old Leon Jacob, for plotting to kill her ex-husband and his ex-girlfriend.
McDaniel filed for divorce in 2014 citing "infidelity" and "discord or conflict of personalities."
Also outlined in the divorce documents, McDaniel was to make a nearly "1.25 million dollar payment" in the split, and the couple divied up several high-end cars.
McDaniel got the property where the Montrose Veterinary Clinic is, along with a River Oaks high-rise condo. Her ex got property on Tiki Island.
The couple shared joint custody of their now 8-year-old daughter.
McDaniel's mother has a mugshot of her own.
Psychologist Carole Busick was indicted by a Harris County grand jury in 2015 on allegations of tampering with government records.
Busick and her husband were charged with certifying psych evaluations, when in fact, the new hires had failed to meet professionally recognized standards.
Busick pleaded guilty and got 10 years deffered adjudication. She faces no jailtime as she complies with her probation.
Pet owners and clients of McDaniel are standing up for their doctor.
One common phrase they've used to describe the charges against her is "out of character."
Kay Walton is an example of a character witness you'd want on your side if you were in trouble.
"I absolutely adore her,. She's the best vet in Houston," Walton said. "She's taken care of my cats for the last 16 years. I wouldn't see anyone else for anything."
McDaniel is the owner of the Montrose Veterinary Clinic.
She's in trouble, facing murder-for-hire charges for allegedly plotting with her current boyfriend to hire a hitman to kill both of their exes.
Those plans were foiled after an undercover Houston Police Department officer got involved.
"This is totally out of character for her," Walton said. "I don't believe the facts as they're being presented. There's something else behind all of this."
Jacob has a criminal arrest history for domestic violence, aggravated stalking, intimidation and cyberstalking, according to court documents.
He is accused of assaulting his ex-girlfriend in January and continuing to contact her afterward. Jacob was arrested Feb. 6 and was charged, which is why, investigators said, he hired a hit man.
"The co-defendant says he was looking for somebody to kill a witness for his pending stalking charge," according to a probable cause statement read by a judge Saturday in court.
Jacob and McDaniel didn't know the hit man with whom they made plans was an undercover police officer, authorities said.
If you exclude the allegations, there are a lot of positives to speak of regarding the veteran veterinarian.
McDaniel, a native Houstonian, graduated from the University of St. Thomas and then studied veterinary medicine at Texas A&M University, according to the bio on the clinic's website.
She's owned the award-winning Montrose Clinic since 2000.
"There's not a client at that clinic that wouldn't stand up for her," Walton said.
Livia Bornigia is the proud owner of a dog named Foxy. Over the course of 15 years, Foxy is the third dog Bornigia has asked McDaniel to care for.
"She is a compassionate, caring person," Bornigia said. "(She's) very, extremely good at her job, extremely bright."
When you mix those adjectives Bornigia rattled off and murder-for hire-charges, she says something doesn't add up.
"I would venture to say there's probably more to the story than what we're seeing," Bornigia said.
"Montrose Vet is a wonderful place," Bornigia added. "I hope that this doesn't affect them because there's wonderful professionals in there along with Dr. McDaniel."
According to Dane Schiller, of the Harris County District Attorney's Office, the exes were notified of the plot to kill them, so they teamed up with the officer to pose for photos portraying realistic crime scenes to convince McDaniel and Jacob that the two had been killed.
Investigators said the couple offered to pay $20,000 and hand over two Cartier watches to have her ex-husband and his ex-girlfriend killed.
Channel 2 spoke with the family of McDaniel's ex-husband, who did not want to comment, but said McDaniel's daughter is in their care.
Jacob, who is charged with two counts of soliciting capital murder, is being held without bond.
McDaniel, who is charged with one count of soliciting capital murder, posted bond on the condition that she not contact her 8-year-old daughter. She walked out of jail Monday afternoon.
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