HPD: Veterinarian charged in a murder-for-hire plot left detailed suicide note, letters to family
HOUSTON – A veterinarian accused in a murder-for-hire plot who has since committed suicide was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.
Valerie McDaniel's lawyer met with prosecutors to decide what to do about the open case.
The court decided the case would be dismissed once a death certificate is received.
McDaniel's live-in boyfriend, Leon Jacob, made a request to attend her funeral. His request was denied by a judge in an informal hearing.
The last time Jacob stood before a judge, he stood beside his girlfriend who was also charged in the murder-for-hire plot.
On Wednesday morning, Jacob will stand alone.
Wednesday morning, Jacob will ask a judge to release him on bond.
His attorney plans to call witnesses to testify during the hearing.
A photo snapped during happier times showed McDaniel sitting on the balcony of her high-rise home in River Oaks.
On Monday, police said, she jumped from the high rise to her death.
Police said they received a suicide call Monday morning from a high-rise residence building on Willowick. Police said a worker at the property made the discovery.
At 4 p.m., police confirmed that McDaniel was the person who died. The medical examiner's office also confirmed the body was that of McDaniel.
A body covered by a white sheet could be seen in the courtyard area of the building.
Jacob's attorney told his client of her death.
"Just use your imagination when I say devastation. And you won't be off," attorney George Parnham said.
At first, police were reluctant to identify McDaniel.
"There was no one at home at the time,” said Detective J. P Villareal, of the Houston Police Department. “The reportee was someone who either worked inside the apartment complex, or condo complex. And they reported to police that there was a body laying out there. They didn't know if she was asleep, or what, until the officers came out and found her."
Houston police said before McDaniel took her own life, she wrote a detailed note outlining her final wishes.
Police said she also wrote and left behind sealed letters to various family members.
"Tragic and sad. We don't like things like this to happen. We weren't ... it's a very tragic thing for the family. Especially for her daughter. It was shocking for us. We had no idea that this was going to happen," prosecutor Nathan Moss said.
McDaniel and her live-in boyfriend, Jacob, were charged with soliciting capital murder for plotting to kill her ex-husband and his ex-girlfriend, according to prosecutors.
McDaniel, 48, was free on bond when she died. She was the owner of the Montrose Veterinary Clinic.
Jacob, 39, is being held without bond. His next court hearing is Wednesday, when attorneys will ask a judge to consider bond.
The couple's murder-for-hire plans were foiled after an undercover Houston Police Department officer got involved, authorities said.
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 McDaniel and Jacob offered to pay $20,000 and hand over two Cartier watches to have her ex-husband and his ex-girlfriend killed.
Jacob's troubled past
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.
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 divvied 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.
Marion “Mack” McDaniel III and Valerie McDaniel had an 8-year-old daughter.
Valeria 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.
Clients remember McDaniel
Despite the accusations, co-workers and clients of McDaniel said the veterinarian was great at what she did and was always helpful with people’s pets.
“I’m really just so sorry that this happened and it’s just really made me sad today,” explained a tearful Jessica Love Barnes, who went to Episcopal High School with McDaniel. “I think she was a kind, compassionate person and that’s how I knew her. She (provided) just excellent care of all the animals and (was) just a kind person, someone that you felt was a friend as your veterinarian.”
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