BABY JOE: Videos of Joe Clyde Daniels, body cam from inside home played during trial
DICKSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — The prosecution and defense laid out their cases during day one of the trial for Joseph Daniels, the Dickson County man accused of killing his five-year-old son Joe Clyde, known as “Baby Joe.”
Prior to the opening statements, Dickson County Circuit Court Judge David Wolfe disclosed that none of the 12 jurors or four alternates selected from Chattanooga had ever heard of “Baby Joe” or the case against his father.
District Attorney Ray Crouch first presented the state’s case against Joseph Daniels, stating the suspect’s more than four hour confession detailed how he slammed his five-year-old son’s body onto a coffee table after the boy, described as “developmentally disabled,” had urinated on the floor of a bedroom.
Crouch said Joseph Daniels admitted to placing Joe Clyde’s body in the trunk of his car and driving to a truck stop approximately nine miles away, where he threw the child’s body off a bridge into the water. The body of Joe Clyde has never been found.
The prosecution stated Joseph Daniels did not believe Joe Clyde was his biological son, referred to him as “that boy,” and knew his wife, Krystal Daniels was cheating on him. The two had been arguing the night Joe Clyde was allegedly killed, according to Crouch.
Jake Lockert, the public defender representing Joseph Daniels, reinforced his claim that his client’s confession to fatally beating his son was coerced.
Lockert said Joseph Daniels, who he described as “mentally ill,” was essentially told “we’re not gonna stop until you tell us what we want to hear,” and eventually, he admitted that he beat Joe Clyde for 15 to 20 minutes in the living room, killing him.
Joe Clyde’s blood was not found in the family’s living room and the residence had not been professionally cleaned, according to Lockert.
The first witness was Jessica Donnerstag, a speech language pathologist at Centennial Elementary who worked with Joe Clyde for roughly three years.
As videos played showing Joe Clyde in her class, Donnerstag testified that the young boy was “a great student” who was “very energetic” and “made a lot of progress.”
Tony Longtin, a school bus driver in Dickson County, was also called to the stand. Video was played showing Joe Clyde getting off the bus the day before his disappearance.
After the young boy was reported missing, Longtin explained he ran buses back and forth, bringing volunteers to assist in the search efforts.
Dispatcher Chelsea Lampley answered the 911 call from Joseph Daniels on April 4, 2018, when he reported his son missing and claimed he had escaped. She testified that, at the time, she noticed Joseph Daniels “seemed extremely calm” on the call.
After an hour-long recess, Deputy Nicholas Dearman, who worked for the Dickson County Sheriff’s Office at the time that “Baby Joe” went missing, was called to the stand. His body camera video from the day was shown, as the deputy had walked through the Daniels’ home interacting with both Joseph and Krystal Daniels.
The trial will resume at 9 a.m. on Friday.
Joseph Daniels faces multiple charges, including first-degree murder and evidence tampering. He was jailed at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville but will be housed in the Dickson County jail during the trial.
Krystal Daniels, who is charged with aggravated child abuse and neglect, remains in the Dickson County jail, as well. She will be tried separately from her husband.
News 2 will have live streaming coverage of Joseph Daniels’ trial at WKRN.com. Josh Breslow will be joined by News 2’s legal expert, Grover Collins to provide analysis on the trial from the opening statements to the verdict.
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Possible new lead in search for Joe Clyde Daniels' body
DICKSON, Tenn. (WTVF) — Five-year-old Joe Clyde disappeared from his Dickson County home in 2018. This summer his father was convicted of murder.
But the little boy's body has never been found. Now, there's a possible jump start to the search.
A letter from the boy's father may provide some new leads. Joseph Daniels sent the letter to private investigator David Marshburn — who's been involved in other high-profile missing persons cases.
Now Marshburn is returning to Tennessee.
"If his remains are never found this is a story we will continue to hear about two or three decades from now," said NewsChannel 5 legal analyst Nick Leonardo.
After Joe Clyde disappeared, a six-mile radius around his home was searched.
Marshburn — who works out of North Carolina — came later to look.
"You're looking for remains of a smaller child you don't come across those things every day," said Marshburn in 2018.
Not a trace of the boy was ever found.
There are no more organized searches, but now Marshburn is returning.
"I come in after the fact after everyone is done and it's gone cold," said Marshburn by phone this week.
He's coming with some new leads and his cadaver dog thanks in part to a letter Joseph Daniels sent him last month from prison.
"Letters back and forth... so I have had a conversation with Joseph," said Marshburn.
Daniels writes: "Dear David, as you know I am now convicted for a murder."
Daniels does not admit to killing or disposing of his son's body.
But he does go on to write: "Here are some roads I want searched. Mostly these are roads in the surrounding area."
"My plan for coming back is to expand the search out further," said Marshburn.
For now, he doesn't know if Daniels is leading him to his son's body, or if he's lying as he has so often in the past.
But Marshburn won't give up on the search.
"I'm always optimistic about people being found. I truly believe he'll be found," he said.
So, Marshburn has a list of roads and new places to search, hoping it leads to a body more than years after Joe Clyde disappeared.
Marshburn expects to return later this fall or winter — when the brush is down and the trees are bare.
A look back at the three year effort to find justice for Joe Clyde Daniels
CHARLOTTE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It was a case that shook Dickson County to its core. April 4, 2018, Joe Clyde Daniels, a five-year-old little boy with autism was reported missing from his home that he shared with his parents, grandparents, aunt and two siblings.
Almost immediately, Tennesseans did what they do best -- volunteered to search for the boy. But hours turned into days, it became more likely this would turn into a recovery instead of search mission.
Four days later, there was a break in the case. The boy was still missing, but investigators had their suspect, his father, Joseph Daniels.
"Where Is Baby Joe?" protesters chanted as Joseph was walked into the old Dickson County Courthouse for arraignment on April 13, 2018.
And so began a three year legal process, full of hearings and unexpected COVID-19 related delays. The case was followed intently in Nashville, across Middle Tennessee and for some, around the world.
Then, on June 3, 2021 came Joseph's trial -- held at the brand new Dickson County Justice Center on Spring Street in Charlotte. The state put on more than 250 exhibits and dozens of witnesses were questioned, but the most consequential was Alex Nolan.
"Well, I woke up to this loud thing. I didn’t go in there immediately but," said Alex as he paused to cry on the stand.
"I know this is tough. I know it’s tough," responded District Attorney General Ray Crouch.
Now 11 years old, Joe Clyde's half brother had to testify against his own step-father and with other family members sitting inside the courtroom. Given his age, NewsChannel 5 decided to not show his face on air.
"The defendant started walking down the driveway?" asked DA Crouch.
"Yes," replied Alex.
"What had he done with Joe Clyde?" asked Crouch.
"He had him in his arms," replied an emotional Alex.
But Alex's testimony wasn't without controversy. When the child was eight years old, his account was different to law enforcement -- claiming Joseph wasn't responsible and that he didn't know what happened to his half brother.
"When did you change your story?" asked Matt Mitchell, the Assistant Public Defender representing Daniels.
"When did I change my story? Whenever I remembered. It was blocked off until a couple months ago," replied Alex.
The key piece of evidence was Joseph's hours long interview with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. At first, Joseph remained insistent he didn't know what happened to Joe Clyde, but after persistent questions, he confessed to killing his son.
"Why did I kill my son? Why did I kill my son?" Daniels screamed through tears during the confession.
In closing arguments, the prosecution showed a video of Joe Clyde playfully upset because his teacher didn't have an apple for him. "Don’t be so mad, we’re going to play a fun game instead. No? You want an apple more than anything?" Ms. Donnerstag, a speech pathlogist said in the video clip to Joe Clyde.
And then, after nine hours of deliberation, on the ninth day of the trial, a jury of twelve men and women sealed the defendant's fate. "As to the charge of first degree murder in the perpetration of a felony crime, how does the jury find?" asked Judge David Wolfe.
"Guilty, sir" replied the Jury Foreman.
So many questions remain, like the location of a body or motive. But we do know this -- a community shaken to it's core now has a few more answers. Hopefully, one day, Dickson County will be able to find peace.
Here's a timeline to help understand the Joe Clyde Daniels case
When Joe Clyde Daniels was initially reported missing on April 4, 2018, the Dickson County community rallied in support to find him. He was presumed dead a few days later.
Three years after Joe Clyde's initial disappearance, his body still has not been found, and the Dickson County community still wants answers about what exactly happened to 5-year-old "Baby Joe," who was autistic and non-verbal.
Joseph Daniels, Joe Clyde's father, is charged with criminal homicide in the case. June 1 marks the beginning of the father's trial.
Here's a timeline of dates from the Tennessean archives to make the events of the Joe Clyde case easier to understand.
April 4, 2018
One of Joseph Daniels' children came to tell him that 5-year-old Joe Clyde had urinated on the floor, according to TBI investigators.
In Joseph's later admission to TBI agents, he said, “I then told them to get their (butts) in the bed. Baby Joe started laughing. So I beat him. That’s when he ran out the front door. Baby Joe ran to the road. I saw a car drive by. I ran out and got him back in the house. I beat him some more. That’s when I killed Baby Joe.”
Joseph Daniels, who was 28 at the time of Joe Clyde's disappearance, also later told investigators, "That night, I got into my car and drove down McElhiney Road, and I got Baby Joe out of the trunk. I had my wife's cell phone in my left hand, using it as a flashlight, and Baby Joe was over my right shoulder."
At some point on April 4, Joseph Daniels called 911 to report his son as missing. The Dickson County community began searching for young Joe Clyde.
A few hours after Joe Clyde's initial disappearance, a McEwen man driving down Garners Creek Road — where the Daniels family lives — saw a person wearing what looked like a skeleton T-shirt. According to a written statement from the McEwen witness later referenced in a hearing, the person, who “looked like almost a teenager,” was standing 10 or 15 feet away from the road. Another statement later presented in court recorded that a Dickson County woman driving at that time "observed a man standing next to the guardrail on the east side of the road.” She said she was "positive" the man was Joseph Daniels.
In an interrogation and failed polygraph administered by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Joseph Daniels admitted to hitting his son Joe Clyde in the head with a closed fist "several times" and in the face "a few times."
Joseph Daniels has since retracted this confession, saying he was coerced.
Joseph Daniels confession:Joseph Daniels confession, polygraph video: What we learned
The communitywide search for Joe Clyde ended. Joseph Daniels confessed to killing Joe and hiding his body, taking it to a "remote area." Investigators announced his confession at a news conference, and Joseph Daniels was arrested and charged with criminal homicide. He was kept at the Dickson County Jail on $1 million bond.
According to court documents, 27-year-old Krystal Daniels, Joe Clyde's mother, admitted to investigators to being present when Joseph Daniels "intentionally caused the death" of their son in their Garners Creek home. She was arrested and charged with aggravated child neglect or endangerment and held on $1 million bond.
The affidavit read that "Krystal Daniels failed to report the abuse and resulting homicide."
Two more searches for Joe Clyde took place, both inconclusive.
Joseph and Krystal Daniels appeared for a preliminary court hearing at the Dickson County General Sessions Court in Charlotte. The case was moved to the Dickson County Grand Jury.
In a Special Called Session of the Dickson County Grand Jury, Krystal Daniels was indicted on counts of criminal responsibility, aggravated child neglect and filing a false report.
Joseph Ray Daniels was indicted on counts of first degree murder, felony murder, aggravated child abuse, filing a false report and tampering with evidence.
A letter signed with the initials "J.D." arrived at the home of Joseph Clyde and Belle Daniels, Joseph Daniels' father and stepmother. The letter, according to both public defender Jake Lockert and Joseph Daniels himself, was from Joseph Daniels, despite it unintentionally appearing to be anonymous. Joseph Daniels claimed in the letter that Joe Clyde was still alive, that another man “is involved with Joe’s disappearance” and that he believes "Krystal got Joe's clothes, packed them into a bag... and left Joe on the side of the road."
Joseph Daniels sends letter to parents:Joe Clyde Daniels' father admits writing letter about boy being alive, puts blame on wife
July 1, 2019
A recorded phone conversation revealed Joseph Daniels telling his father that Krystal Daniels killed Joe Clyde with a pillow. Joseph Daniels claimed that Krystal Daniels threatened to kill him.
Joseph Daniels' phone conversation:Joseph Daniels hearing day 2: Says wife Krystal killed Joe Clyde
May 21, 2020
Officials obtained a search warrant and dug along the Daniels' backyard fence line at the home on Garners Creek Road. They found 26 bones and bone fragments. TBI agent Zachary Burkhart referenced a video from April 4, 2018, taken on the security camera of a nearby home. The video showed that no car appeared to have left the Daniels' home early that morning, although lights in the background could have been a car leaving the Daniels' home.
Bone fragments found on Daniels property:Daniels’ property search results: Bones, fragments found
Hearings for Joseph Daniels and Krystal Daniels began.
April hearings for the Joe Clyde case:Joseph Daniels case hearing outcome, audio: ‘My dad is going to kill me’
June 1, 2021
Jury selection begins for trial of Joseph Daniels.
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