Communities in two states are reeling after the death of beloved former guidance counselor Fran Axley.
A winter resident of Naples, Fla., and a summer resident of Waterloo, Axley was found murdered with a sharp object Jan. 1, in her Florida home, according to police.
Almost immediately, police said they had identified a person of interest whom they did not believe was still in southwestern Florida.
Three days later, Thomas J. Evans, 35, of Chicago, was arrested in Georgia and charged with second degree murder.
“I don’t have any more information to release at this time about any other persons or anything else,” Lt. Matt Fletcher of the Naples Police Department told the Republic-Times.
Axley was well-known in southwestern Illinois, where she served as a guidance counselor at New Athens High School from 1969 to 1994. Upon her retirement, she moved to Florida but found her days of serving youth weren’t over.
She worked as a guidance counselor at Calusa Park Elementary in Collier County, Fla., from 1998 to 2011.
She was also a member of Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ in Naples, where she sang in the choir, among other things, according to Rev. Alan Coe, a minister at Mayflower.
Axley had been married to Clyde Axley before they separated in 1983. They had three adopted children, Ehren, Ryan and Rachel, who are now adults.
“She honestly enjoyed helping students,” Clyde Axley told the Naples Daily News.
Funeral services are pending at Heil-Scheussler & Sinn Funeral Home in New Athens.
Axley served as Human Support Services Board President in 1987 and 1988, according to the HSS website.
Fellow retired local educators recalled seeing Axley at meetings of the retired teachers group in Monroe County in recent years.