August 05, 2014 at 7:56 AM
(NEWTON, N.C.) -- Relatives of a popular North Carolina school counselor are heartbroken about her murder -- and relieved that a suspect is behind bars.
Maggie Daniels, 31, was found dead in her apartment June 28.
She was four days away from obtaining her master’s degree.
The death remained a mystery for more than a month. Daniels’ relatives hoped that justice would be served. Those hopes were realized Saturday, when Sharman Odom, 34, was arrested and charged with Daniels’ death.
Odom made his first court appearance Monday -- the same day that the victim’s relatives released a statement about the tragedy.
“It is clear that Maggie touched countless people’s lives throughout her short time here on earth,” her family said in the statement, obtained by ABC News. “We will never get over the loss of our sweet Maggie and there will forever be a hole in our hearts, but we will focus on all the good in Maggie, continue on with her selfless acts of kindness, and carry on her legacy of pure goodness.”
Her family said it would continue to seek justice.
“We are hopeful that with the recent arrest, it will save another family from having to go through such a tragic nightmare,” the statement read. “Maggie will live in our hearts forever. Only love lives here.”
Daniels was known to have a generous spirit. The Ohio native taught and coached basketball at Newton-Conover High School -- she was the school’s teacher of the year in 2011 -- before becoming a counselor at Discovery High School in Newton, North Carolina, a 13,000-population town located northwest of Charlotte.
Hundreds of students, colleagues and relatives attended a July 9 memorial service for Daniels.
“She connected with people. She just had this personality that connected with students and adults,” David Stegall, superintendent of Newton-Conover City Schools, said at the time.
One detail from the murder scene reflected Daniels’ character: There was no sign of forced entry. Her front door was open. She often did that, neighbors said, just in case students stopped by.
Daniels apparently fought for her life, Newton Police Chief Donald Brown told ABC News.
"She died of strangulation," Brown told ABC News. "There was a struggle.”
A search warrant obtained by ABC News indicated there were signs of a violent conflict in Daniels' apartment, with several items damaged or askew.
Authorities interviewed friends and acquaintances and neighbors. According to the search warrant, a police lieutenant interviewed Odom on July 3 and noticed what appeared to be a patch of hair missing from the front portion of his scalp near his forehead. Police searched Odom’s apartment on July 26 and, according to the search warrant, a section of hair consistent with the missing clump was found in a shoe box in a closet.
Additionally, police said, three “selfie” photos taken June 28, the day Daniels’ body was found, showed Odom sporting a scratch on his right nostril and a scratch below his left eye.
“The injuries appeared pink, suggesting they were new,” the search warrant stated.
Odom smirked as he was escorted to jail by police.
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