People are lining up around a courtroom in Texas in support of Valerie McDaniel, a prominent Houston veterinarian at the center of a terrible murder-for-hire plot.
Valerie’s attorney, Matt Alford, told People that since his client’s arrest he’s had more than 20 calls from friends and acquaintances testifying to McDaniel’s solid character and offering to speak on the behalf of the 48-year-old mother.
Her ex-husband, Marion “Mack” McDaniel, might say otherwise, as well as the former girlfriend of Valerie’s boyfriend, Leon Jacob.
According to the Chron, Valerie and 39-year-old Jacob were arrested March 10 on charges of hiring a hitman to kill their exes.
Valerie divorced her husband in August 2016 and reportedly was in the middle of a contentious custody dispute over the couple’s 8-year-old daughter.
Jacob reportedly wanted to stop his ex-girlfriend from testifying against him over felony stalking charges.
Family members told the Chron that the couple, who lived together, were allegedly introduced through Valerie’s divorce attorney — Jacob’s mother.
As People reports. on February 23, investigators with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office received a tip that Jacob was allegedly trying to have his ex-girlfriend killed.
Jacob and Valerie met with a man at an Olive Garden to discuss how “Mack” McDaniel’s death would be made to look like a carjacking gone wrong, and Jacob’s ex-girlfriend would be kidnapped so Jacob could kill her, though he would later “defer” to a hitman.
The day after the meeting, the man from the Olive Garden bought “proof” to Valerie’s home that the task had been carried out.
Valerie and Jacob were handed photos of McDaniel laying lifeless on the ground and Jacob’s ex-girlfriend bound and gagged.
Harris County Assistant District Attorney Nathan Moss told the court that the couple was reluctant to look at the pictures, claiming they said:
“Oh, we don’t want to see them but here’s the money we owe you.’”
Later that night, when Houston police went to the apartment to notify Valerie that her ex-husband had been killed, she reportedly sobbed at the news.
And that’s when she and Jacob were arrested.
As the Chron reports, Jacob allegedly paid a “facilitator” $10,000 to arrange the murders, but instead of finding a hitman, the facilitator went to police.
The “hitman” the facilitator brought to the meeting at the Olive Garden was actually an undercover Houston police officer.
The photos that were shown to Valerie and Jacob were fake – they had been staged.
Police had clued both McDaniel and the ex-girlfriend in on the plot, and they agreed to work with police.
“The Houston Police Department Major Offenders unit is very good at this,” Assistant DA Moss told reporters.
According to Fox26, after their arrest, Valerie was released on a $50,000 bond because she has no criminal record, while Jacob was denied bail because of his previous stalking charges. He remains in the Harris County jail.
McDaniel obtained a protective order against his ex-wife following her release. She has also been ordered to stay away from the couple’s daughter.
Neighbors of McDaniels told reporters that she and her husband seemed like a successful couple, and some were even patrons of the veterinarian’s business.
The Chron reports that Jacob had been in trouble recently, with two prior arrests for stalking, assault, and domestic violence.
According to People, Valerie and Jacob pleaded not guilty. They face a maximum punishment of life in prison. They are scheduled to appear in court later this month.
Neither of their exes have spoken publicly about the ordeal.