NEWTON — A week after police discovered the body of popular Newton high school counselor Maggie Daniels in her apartment, the mystery of her death remains unsolved.
After autopsy results came back on Monday, authorities began investigating the case as a homicide, but didn’t release the cause of death or whether they had any suspects.
Newton police Chief Donald Brown II said on Saturday that investigators have had “a couple of really productive days.
“We have made some headway,” he said. “We’ve developed some leads.”
The probe has focused on the area around Daniels’ apartment complex, but “first thing Monday we’ll broaden the canvass,” Brown said.
A funeral Mass for Daniels, 31, will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Cleveland.
From 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, a community memorial service will be held in Lemon Gymnasium at Newton-Conover High School, where Daniels once coached basketball and taught English.
Daniels moved to North Carolina in 2005 after graduating from Notre Dame College, near Cleveland, and began teaching at Newton-Conover High. She began counseling students at Discovery High School in 2013.
Newton Mayor Anne Stedman called Daniels’ death tragic and remembered meeting her three years ago when they both served on a panel conducting interviews for school district Teacher of the Year, an honor Daniels won in 2011.
“She was very enthusiastic and passionate about her job and career,” Stedman said. “And she was a very loved teacher.”
As the homicide investigation continues, Stedman said, “the SBI, district attorney’s office and police are working very hard to develop a case.”
Carrie Donley, information specialist with Catawba County Schools, said the murder case “is on everyone’s mind. Everyone wants answers. It’s a hot topic.”
She knew Daniels at Newton-Conover High and called her “very dedicated and hard working.”
Brian Tate, 49, former tennis coach at Newton-Conover High School, also knew Daniels and recalled she taught his son and daughter.
“My kids loved her,” he said. “Everybody who had her loved her.”
Hairdresser Bridget Goodson of Hickory described Daniels as “just as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside. She was intelligent, caring and supportive.”
When Daniels came to the salon, she always wanted a trim instead of a hair cut.
“She kept it long,” said Goodson, 33. “One time, she donated 13 inches of hair to Locks of Love for cancer patients.”
Daniels’ death still disturbs her.
“It’s so shocking and heart-breaking,” Goodson said. “You don’t know how somebody could do this. She was always nice to everybody.”
Wendy Lang Titus, 30, became friends with Daniels in 2008 when Titus moved from Ohio to teach at Newton-Conover High School.
When she moved to Wake City, Pa., in 2011 to marry another woman, Daniels was in the wedding.
“She supported me and my wife,” Titus said. “She told me to go after my heart.”
Titus feels a sense of regret that there might have been some little thing she could have done for Daniels, such as returning a phone call. And she suspects other friends feel the same way.
“Everybody’s blown away by this,” Titus said. “We were planning for Maggie to be in our lives. We expected her to be around.”