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'My world crumbled': Wife of MU business dean killed near campus shares her grief

Posted at 10:27 AM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 15:13:11-05

Watch the full story with Lora Daniels tonight on TMJ4 News at 10 p.m.

The wife of the Marquette University business school dean killed last February while walking near campus shares her grief for the first time just days after the suspect in the case was charged.

“Joe Daniels touched so many lives, thousands of lives,” Lora Daniels said.

Daniels' legacy still lives on at Marquette. The longtime professor was known for being genuine and approachable.

“I think his students loved him because he could explain economics in layman’s terms and make it not so daunting,” Lora said.

But no one loved Joe like his wife of 40 years.

“He was my rock, he was my life partner, and as a father, he adored his kids and they adored him,” she said.

Lora said they had just bought a house on a lake and were starting to envision what retirement would look like together. Those plans vanished on Feb. 11, 2020.

“There’s nothing that can ever prepare you for answering your door to three police officers and a priest and that was the moment my world crumbled,” Lora said.

'My world crumbled': Wife of MU business dean killed near campus shares her grief

Officers told Lora that Joe had been fatally struck by a car while crossing the street that night near Marquette’s campus.

“The fact is is that my husband is gone and this was a tragic, horrible way to lose your life partner,” Lora said.

A dispute over who was behind the wheel would take months for police to sort out.

Court documents show both people in the suspect’s vehicle were on the scene when officers arrived, but investigators said the couple neglected to render aid and “both hung up before giving information” when they called 911.

A woman initially told police she was driving while her boyfriend was in the passenger’s seat at the time of the crash, but three days later she changed her story. The woman said her boyfriend, Jordan Jones, was in fact driving and he allegedly told her she needed to lie because he didn’t have a driver’s license.

Police went to the city tow lot to examine the car. They found the seat was too far back for a 5’2” woman to drive. Police said Jones is 6’2”.

Officers confronted Jones with the new information. Investigators claim he said “this was a very sticky situation” because he’s a felon.

“I have not come to grips with it,” Lora said about the alleged cover-up.

Eleven months later, Jones is charged with two felonies for Daniels’ death. The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office said, “Some of the delay was due to the investigation itself to determine the actual driver, and some of the delay was due to necessary crime lab work needed in the case.”

Lora said she remained patient despite months of the unknown.

“I had a lot of faith that the truth will come out,” Lora said.

Lora read hundreds of letters from the lives touched by Joe. Among them was his former student and friend Mark Von der Ruhr.

“He mentored me and at one point, I looked at him and I said, 'I get what you’ve been doing, I can never pay you back' and to Joe’s character, he said ‘that’s not why I’m doing this, you pay it forward,’” Von der Ruhr said.

Following that same motto, Lora is turning the tragedy into a tribute to help others in Joe’s name. She’s launched a scholarship fund for first-generation college students at Marquette.

“You take what you learned and you take that out into the world and do what I did for you for someone else,” she said.

Lora said she’s raised more than $100,000 to make it an annual gift for students in need.

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