HOUSTON – A Houston veterinarian accused in a murder-for-hire plot committed suicide Monday, the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office said.
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.
Police at 4 p.m. confirmed that Valerie 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.
At first, police were reluctant to identify McDaniel.
"There was no one at home at the time,” Detective J. P Villareal of the Houston Police Department said. “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 veterinarian McDaniel and her live-in boyfriend, Leon Jacob, are 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 and was due in court Tuesday. 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.
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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 McDaniels 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 have 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 support 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 was just excellent care of all the animals and just a kind person, someone that you felt was a friend as your veterinarian.”