The young woman Annie Sifford often passed at the Newton apartment complex where they both lived always smiled and waved.
On June 28, Sifford heard people screaming about someone collapsed on the floor of a unit and not breathing.
“I went over to assist,” said Sifford, 53, a certified registered nurse. “That’s my job.”
She recognized the lifeless body as the young woman she’d seen from time to time. The victim was later identified as 31-year-old school counselor Maggie Daniels.
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Police still have not released a cause of her death or whether there are any suspects in the homicide investigation.
Newton police Chief Donald Brown said on Friday there had been no significant developments in the case the past few days.
“But we’re being productive. We’re getting a lot of information and putting it together,” he said. “We’re working as hard as we can go. Eighteen-hour days are not out of the norm.”
Because the investigation is ongoing, Sifford won’t discuss details of what she saw at the crime scene. But she remembers Daniels was “nice and very friendly.”
Sifford, who works two jobs and also pastors a church, said most folks who live at Windsor Apartments are busy.
“They’re working people,” she said. “They nod and wave.”
She’s lived there about four years and described the complex as “very nice, quiet and well-kept-up. I love my home.” The killing, which has gained national and international attention, has shaken her and other residents.
“Our hearts are constantly tortured,” Sifford said. “We’re waiting for the Newton Police Department to do what we know they are going to do.”
She hopes they find the killer soon and that he or she “gets what they deserve.”
So does Judson Terrell. His wife, Rachel, grew up with Daniels in Ohio.
“They lifeguarded together in the summer,” said Terrell, 40, of Fort Mill, S.C. “They were best friends. They moved down (to North Carolina) and taught together.”
On June 11, he said Daniels drove to Fort Mill for the birth of the Terrells’ son, even though she had a high school graduation the next day.
“That’s what kind of person she was,” Terrell said. “She was just an awesome person. She made everybody feel like they were her best friend. And she absolutely loved children.”
He hopes investigators will release more information about the case that could help people remember details.
Daniels moved to North Carolina in 2005 just after graduating from Notre Dame College, near Cleveland, and began teaching English at Newton-Conover High School.
In May 2013, Daniels received a master’s degree in counseling from Appalachian State University. She began counseling students at Discovery High School in Newton later that year.
Police have released a surveillance video still of Daniels leaving a Walmart store in Conover on June 27. The store is about 4 miles north of Daniels’ Windsor Apartment home at 100 W. 17th St.
On Thursday, the Observer reported on a text message Daniels tweeted less than one year before she was found dead. The text message was from a friend warning Daniels about a neighbor she had expressed concerns about.
“Be careful with your neighbor you mentioned,” the Aug. 13 screen shot of the text message said. “I would really encourage you to think about a self-defense class and to give serious consideration to other measures to protect yourself.”
Dianne Davidson, who owns the nearby Dianne’s Dairy Center, called the killing “a sad, sad thing.”
A Newton native, Davidson, 67, remembered the hometown of her childhood as a peaceful place.
“You don’t normally have this sort of thing in Newton,” she said of the Daniels case. “It’s troubling. I hope they catch somebody. Today.”