Long-time New Athens, Ill. teacher murdered in Florida

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WATERLOO, Ill. – A murder in Florida has led to heartbreak here in the St. Louis area.

Frances Axley, 78, a long-time teacher and guidance counselor at New Athens High School, was murdered in Naples, Florida.

Frances Axley

Axley’s daughter in Waterloo, Illinois said the family was grieving and asked or their privacy to be respected.

Axley had moved to Naples in 1996 but returned to Waterloo every summer to stay with her daughter’s family, the daughter said. She and the rest of Axley’s family were fairly certain who killed her but they were still waiting to find out why.

Police found her dead inside her home on New Year’s Day, from a sharp force injury. Police did not release further details.

With the help of US Marshals, investigators tracked down the accused killer in Georgia.

Thomas Evans, 35, was being held on suspicion of second-degree murder. There’s no word on a motive, which only adds to the agony back in New Athens and Waterloo. Evans is a resident of Chicago Heights, Illinois.

Axley’s brother, who was with their mother in Florida, knew Evans, Axley’s daughter said.

From Florida to Illinois, no one seemed to know why he would hurt their mother.

Thomas Evans

“I don’t know who this person is,” said Monica Cabada, Axley’s neighbor in Florida. “I’ve never seen him before. This woman never left her house. Why would somebody go and kill her? It doesn’t make any sense.”

“The family needs answers,” said Beth McConnell, a teacher’s aide for New Athens Schools and a former student of Axley’s. “She was always very happy … bubbly.”

Axley helped a lot of students chart their future course, she said.

Police said Axley died from “sharp force trauma” but have yet to be more specific. More details would be released after Evans was arraigned in court, authorities said. That arraignment has not yet been scheduled.

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