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Jury deliberating in Joe Daniels case, accused of killing 5-year-old son

Joseph Daniels is accused of killing his 5-year-old son Joe Clyde in April 2018 and then getting rid of his body, which has not been found.

CHARLOTTE, Tenn. — Joseph Daniels will not testify in his murder case in Dickson County, he told the judge on Thursday. 

Daniels' defense team also said they would not call any witnesses. Closing arguments began Friday morning at 8 a.m. before the jury began deliberating.

Daniels is accused of killing his 5-year-old son Joe Clyde in April 2018 and then getting rid of his body, which has not been found.

Daniels faces five charges in connection with the case – first-degree murder, first-degree murder in perpetration of a felony, aggravated child abuse, initiating a false report, and tampering with evidence.

Public defender Jake Lockert, who is representing Daniels, said counsel discussed whether Daniels will testify. 

TBI Special Agent Zachary Burkhart spent much of the day on the witness stand. Burkhart shared an email Daniels had with DaVita Kidney Care around April 3, 2018, but there was some difficulty verifying parts of his background check. 

Dashcam video on officers arriving at the Daniels’ home on April 4, 2018, shows Daniels drive away at 7:36 a.m. and return home at 9:19 a.m. Daniels is seen driving past Bethany Retreat House about three miles away. But around 9:13 a.m. phone data shows Daniels called Nashville State Community College to verify documentation for his job with DaVita before returning home.

Burkhart noted that Daniels called Nashville State while dozens of people were out searching for 5-year-old Joe Clyde on April 4.

Video also showed Daniels leaving his house around 2:15 a.m. on April 5, 2018, and going to the Love’s Truck Stop. Videos show him at the store at 2:44 a.m. and at 3:04 a.m. He returns home that day at 3:28 a.m.

Burkhart also testified about photos inside the Daniels’ home taken on April 4 and April 7. He testified three days later the living room is cleaned up and no toys were scattered about.

District Attorney General Ray Crouch asked if it’s significant that the items were moved. Burkhart said it shows that evidence can be destroyed or disappear during that time.

Evidence that Krystal Daniels, Joseph’s wife, and Joe Clyde’s mom, was having an affair was also presented to the jury. There were 20,000 pages of direct messages between Thomas Richard and Krystal Daniels admitted as evidence. The judge warned the jury there was offensive language of a sexual nature in messages between them. The messages stated Krystal Daniels wasn’t happy the last three years and wanted a divorce. Krystal Daniels told Richards in March of 2018 she was unhappy.

Evidence was also introduced that Daniels searched anonymous parental tests, how he can get a paternity test without his parents knowing, and flight and rental car information in Wichita, KS, which is where Richards lives.

The defense argued there was no evidence Daniels had read the messages, but Burkhart responded Krystal Daniels sent the messages from her son Alex’s tablet.

Daniels also messaged his mom on March 31, 2018, “by the time you see this message I’ll be 6 feet under.”

The state also shows a letter to Daniels from Logical LLC that verified Daniels resigned from his job with them on Feb. 27, 2018, because of the demand of the job. The letter was found in Daniels’ car.

According to Daniels’ resume, he was a computer science major.

During a lengthy exchange with Burkhart, Jake Lockert, Daniels’ public defender, tries to prove that law enforcement didn’t check everything. He argues certain locations, neighbors, and a pair of boots taken from a nearby porch were not investigated. 

Lockert argues that Alex Nolan’s story and Daniel’s confession did line up. Alex is Daniel’s stepson and was 8 at the time of Joe Clyde’s disappearance.

Daniels said he put Joe Clyde in his car trunk while Alex testified he saw Daniels carry Joe Clyde away from the house. 

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Detectives in charge of the search for 5-year-old Joe Clyde Daniels testified on Wednesday on the sixth day of the Joseph Daniels murder trial.

Daniels faces five charges – first-degree murder, first-degree murder in perpetration of a felony, aggravated child abuse, initiating a false report, and tampering with evidence – in the death of Joe Clyde Daniels in April 2018. Joe Clyde’s body has not been found.

Dickson County Sheriff Detective Trevor Daniel helped organize the search for Baby Joe in the area of Garners Creek Road on April 4, 2018.

Daniel said he interviewed Daniels on April 4 and was told that Joe Clyde escaped by climbing on the coffee table and unlocking the padlock. He said Daniels asked them to check his trunk, which the detective said was odd.

Daniel testified that Joseph’s story changed from what he told him earlier in the morning.

Before, he said he immediately looked at the back door and noticed the lock wasn’t there. Later, he said he didn’t look at the door and didn’t see the lock.

The detective testified that Daniels didn’t tell him that Alex, Joe Clyde’s older brother, woke him saying Joe Clyde had urinated on the floor.

The state played audio clips of Daniels showing detectives where he brought Joe Clyde’s body after the confession on April 6, 2018.

In one clip, you can hear Daniels breaking down on the way to the location.

“I don’t want to see him. I didn’t want this to happen,” Daniels said on the recording.

Daniels also says, “My dad is going to kill me”. Detectives assured him they wouldn’t let that happen and attempted to calm him down.

“I just want to tell my wife I’m sorry,” Daniels is heard saying on another clip.

When they tried to find where Daniels had taken Joe Clyde, he said he may have covered the 5-year-old with grass.

“Why did I do this? What just happened,” Daniels is heard saying on the clip.

He then says, “He’s (Alex) a good boy, he doesn’t lie – he tells the truth.”

Daniels said on the clip that he put Joe Clyde’s body in a field next to a tree, buried him, and covered him with grass.

“He’s in that field. I know it’s a big field, but he’s in that field,” Daniels said in the clip.

He also said in one of the clips heard in the courtroom that he tried to strangle himself at one point with a belt.

The defense asked Daniel about the TBI’s interview with Daniels. The detective said he was outside the door and heard two parts of the interrogation.

The defense also asked Daniel about the inconsistencies in Daniels’ story.

“People don’t always remember things the first time,” the defense stated.

“Not always,” Daniel replied.

Brandt Holt, who was a TBI agent at the time of Joe Clyde’s disappearance, said he picked up Daniels on April 7. Daniels was read his rights and wanted to show the location where Joe Clyde’s body could be.

Holt said Daniels told him he took Joe Clyde’s body to the Piney River in Hickman County and dropped it off the bridge.

Law enforcement searched that area for Joe Clyde’s body. The body has not been found.

Holt testified that at one point Big Joe, Daniels’ father, got in the car with them. Daniels told his dad that he beat his child. Holt said this confession was not forced. Holt said he heard Daniels say Alex saw this and “would have to see this the rest of his life.”

Lavone Robins, who works at Love’s Truck Stop, said she saw Joseph and Joe Clyde come in around Easter time. Joe Clyde had on pajamas that weren’t typical, according to the witness.

She said on the overnight hours of April 5 around 3 a.m., she had taken her dog out during her break. When she drove back, Robins said she saw Daniels driving that night at a very slow speed on a high-speed road.

When she returned, she saw a maroon car and a person in a hood at a pump who she said was Daniels.

Daniels is seen on video inside Love’s Truck Stop at 2:45 a.m. and is seen buying something at the counter and having a lengthy conversation with the employees. Another clip from 3:03-3:09 a.m. shows Daniels come back in and show them a picture of Joe Clyde.

Robins also said Daniels’ father called the truck stop twice after Daniels had left after 3:09 a.m.

Gregg Fort, a member of the TBI Violent Crime Response Team, said he was called to the Daniels’ home on April 7, three days after Joe Clyde’s disappearance.

Fort took around 1,200 photos inside and outside the Daniels’ Garner Creek Road home on that day. Photos showed the home was clean and straightened up.

Fort said his team used “blue star,” a chemical that shows blood on a crime scene. He said there were several markers inside the living room that tested positive. He said blood doesn’t have to be red or brown. It can even look orange or mask itself.

Fort said blue star is used to narrow their focus, but the results still have to be sent to a lab to test and verify. Once tested in the lab, Fort said all the areas tested negative for blood and DNA. The spots were not tested in the lab for urine or juice.

The afternoon was full of testimony from six TBI witnesses. All of them verified there is no physical evidence that could link Joseph to killing Joe Clyde.

The state is expected to rest its case on Thursday morning. The defense may go into the weekend with the rebuttal. Circuit Court Judge David Wolfe hopes to send the case to the jury by the weekend.

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It was an emotional day in court in the Joseph Daniels’ trial on Tuesday.

The state showed the video of Daniels confessing to killing his son, 5-year-old Joe Clyde Daniels, in April 2018.

Since that video, Daniels has recanted his confession saying he was coerced.

There were multiple pre-trial motions to allow the confession to be shown to the jury. Circuit Court Judge David Wolfe finally ruled late Monday that the state could use the confession.

On Tuesday, the defense took the morning to watch the redacted version the state submitted before the jury saw it.

The video is a key piece of evidence for the prosecution, but the defense continues to say it's coerced.

When TBI agent Joey Boyd took the stand, the state played the video interview he had with Joseph Daniels at the Dickson Police Department two days after Joe Clyde went missing.

Boyd said Daniels came to the police department that day willingly.

In the video, Daniels tells Boyd that Joe Clyde woke up that night, moved the coffee table, and unlocked the padlock on the backdoor.

Daniels said when he woke up, Joe Clyde was missing so he went to search for him outside.

“I told Krystal he’s gone,” Daniels said in the video. “You told her that?” Boyd asked. “He’s gone, yeah,” Daniels replied.

In the interview, Boyd presses Daniels saying he needs to tell the truth.

In the video, the pressure gets to Daniels, who gets frustrated and changes his story.

Toward the end of the three-hour-long interview, Daniels admits to killing Joe Clyde, saying he wanted to get out of that interview.

“Did you tell him to? You told him to go outside?” Boyd asked Daniels in the video.

Daniels nodded his head yes.

For Daniels’ parents, although they’ve seen the confession video before, they left the courtroom a couple of times because it was difficult for them to watch.

Testimony began earlier Tuesday when Jenny Jones, a neighbor of the Daniels, was the first person to testify on Tuesday morning.

She said she saw someone standing on a bridge/guard rail near her home at 1450 Garners Creek Rd. around 1:30 a.m. on April 4, 2018, the day Joe Clyde disappeared.

Jones testified she saw a man wearing a multi-colored shirt and red shorts. She said she didn’t see a dead child, but claimed she saw Daniels’ face. She said she reported this after she saw the news coverage.

Jones gave a written statement before the trial saying the person she saw never looked at her, but she testified Tuesday that the person did.

Boyd was called to the stand to introduce the video as evidence.

The defense team said it had not had a chance to see the redacted version of the confession video that was to be introduced. Wolfe called for a recess to allow for the defense team to view the video before it was played for the jury.

The trial went into recess for about three hours before a hearing was held at noon.

Public defender Jake Lockert, who is representing Daniels, watched the redacted confession video during the break. He asked for a part of the video involving dogs being dropped off to not be shown to the jury.

The court went back into a short recess the allow the state to cut out pieces of the transcript the defense team asked to be removed before it was given to the jury.

The trial resumed just before 1 p.m. when the prosecution played the confession video.

Boyd met with Daniels on April 6, 2018, at the Dickson Police Department before his arrest. Boyd said Daniels drove himself and his wife Krystal to the interview.

Daniels is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree murder in perpetration of a felony, aggravated child abuse, initiating a false report, and tampering with evidence.

Krystal Daniels, Joe Clyde’s mother, is also facing charges of aggravated child neglect.

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The older brother of Joe Clyde Daniels testified that Joseph Daniels threatened to kill him after he saw his stepfather lay his son down in the yard.

Daniels is charged for killing his 5-year-old son, Joe Clyde Daniels, in 2018.

The testimony came during the fourth day of testimony in Joseph Daniels’ murder trial at the Dickson County Justice Center.

Alex Nolan, who was 8 when Joe Clyde disappeared, is the biological son of Krystal Daniels. He lived with his mom and Joseph Daniels at the Garners Creek Road home in 2018. Now 11, Alex lives with his aunt and uncle.

Alex testified that his Joseph Daniels threatened to kill him after he saw stepfather lay Joe Clyde down in the yard.

“I saw him lay Joe down. He was on his knees looking around, but a couple of minutes after that he saw me,” Alex said.

Alex, who stayed in the same bedroom as Joe Clyde, said Joseph Daniels came into the room and beat the 5-year-old after Joe Clyde had peed on the floor. Alex said he heard a loud bang and then saw Joe Clyde on the floor.

He said Joseph carried Joe Clyde out the door and laid him down in the yard.

In an interview with detectives, Alex said Joseph was mean to him, called him a girl, said mean jokes and smacked his cheeks often.

The judge allowed Alex a break during his testimony after he became emotional recalling the events.

On Saturday, both the defense and prosecution finished questioning Detective Sarah McCartney with the Dickson County Sheriff’s Department.

McCartney was one of the first investigators on the scene of the Daniels’ home the day Joe Clyde was reported missing. She says she reviewed 24 hours of security camera footage from inside and outside places near the Daniels' residence. The videos include footage from Dollar General, Love’s Truck Stop, and the Pruitt Springs property.

One of the videos from Pruitt Springs shows Matthew Ledford, the Daniels' neighbor going into his driveway the night of Joe Clyde’s disappearance. She says her focus was the minuscule light in the bottom right corner.

“As you can see, because you’ve seen multiple vehicles in this video, those lights do not act or behave like any other vehicles that you see in the video,” says McCartney. “A couple of weeks later, I actually went out and did a test drive. And I pulled into Mr. Matt Ledford’s driveway and I backed out. And I collected the same video surveillance and it does not look like what you just saw.”

But it was a recording prosecutors played in court that shows Joseph Daniels couldn’t keep his story straight when he was questioned by investigators. One of those was Agent Steven Kennard, with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations, who took the stand Saturday morning.

Could Joe Clyde escape his home in the middle of the night? That’s the question investigators tried to uncover in an interview with Joseph Daniels the afternoon after Joe Clyde went missing.

“For a long time, I had a legitimate fear that this would happen, unfortunately,” says Joseph Daniels to TBI investigators in the recording.

Daniels told investigators his son had a history of escaping his home on Garners Creek Road. He says he and his wife, Krystal Daniels, put locks and furniture in front of doors to stop him. But he says the lock was something Joe Clyde tried to pick.

“I’ve never seen him actually do it,” Daniels tells investigators. “Krystal said one day when she was home, he had taken a chair and was trying to actually unlock the door. The key was in the padlock was what she said.”

He says that’s what happened the night of April 4, 2018. Joe Clyde moved the coffee table and unlocked the padlock on the back door.

“I noticed something weird was going on because the coffee table that sits in the living room was pointed toward the two doors to the room that he was sleeping in,” says Daniels. “And I walked in and he wasn’t there.”

A TBI Agent asks Daniels:

“I don’t want you to take offense by this, but Joe, did you have anything to do with this little boy’s disappearance?”

“No,” replies Daniels.

“Have you done anything to him? Or caused anything to happen to him?”

“No.”

“Or after the fact?”

“No.”

“And everything you told us has been accurate and true?”

“Yes.”

While Daniels confirms what he told investigators is true, one of them tells him his storyline is off from that morning.

“There’s just two things that changed from when I talked to you this morning to now, there’s been some new thing you added that I didn’t know about,” says one of the TBI agents on the scene.

The TBI agents say Daniels first told him he never checked the back door. Now, he says he checked the door and saw the coffee table. Daniels also tells agents Joe Clyde and his siblings were playing outside the day before but came inside at 4 p.m. He later moves that time to 6 p.m.

The trial will resume at 8 a.m. Monday. Kennard will not be questioned and has been removed from the subpoena due to a scheduling conflict with the Delke trial.

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The trial of Joseph Daniels began on Thursday afternoon with opening statements from the prosecution and defense at the Dickson County courthouse. 

Joseph Daniels is charged for killing his 5-year-old son, Joe Clyde Daniels, back in 2018.  

The state gave its opening statement first and painted a picture of Joe Clyde, a child with autism. They say he was an innocent kid who loved cowboy boots, school, and apples.  They say Joseph Daniels is smart, he’s college-educated and was a computer engineer and technician.  They mention Krystal Daniels was cheating on Joseph and the two got in a fight the night before Joe Clyde went missing. He also didn’t believe Joe Clyde was his biological son. 

“You’re going to hear that the defendant called his son “that boy”,” says district attorney Ray Crouch. 

The defense focused on the investigation in their opening statements saying it was biased.  Defense attorney, Jake Lockert, says TBI agents nagged Joseph Daniels to confess to killing his son. 

“He just gradually adopts what he’s telling him in his statement,” argues Lockert.

Lockert also made the point police didn’t investigate certain places until two years after Joe Clyde went missing, another argument the investigation is biased.   

“This prosecution is obscure,” Lockert comments. 

The first witness the prosecution brought to the stand was Jessica Donnerstag.  She was Joe Clyde’s teacher who helped him with his speech.   

“He was great with students to work with, he was very funny, he liked to play, and he loved to joke around,” says Donnerstag.   

She says he had a lot of potential.  He didn’t like loud noises and got distracted easily.  She says he had some speech issues and talked about using only vowels.  When saying the number “five” he left out the “F” and “V”.   

During the trial, the state showed three videos of Joe Clyde being taught by Donnerstag to show the jury who the victim is.  During that time, family, Donnerstag, even Joseph Daniels, got emotional inside the courtroom seeing Joe Clyde on the screen. 

The state made the argument in their opening statement that Joseph Daniels told first responders Joe Clyde escaped by unlocking the front door with a lock and key the night he went missing.  But one piece of evidence shows Joe Clyde didn’t know how to use a lock and key. The prosecution submitted a toy lock and key as an exhibit.  Donnerstag says she used it to help Joe Clyde with his motor skills.  She says he had difficultly putting together locks and keys. 

The state also brought forward Joe Clyde’s bus driver, a 911 dispatcher who took Joseph Daniel’s call to report Joe Clyde went missing, and Deputy Derek Smith of the Dickson County Sheriff’s Department. 

"The confession is obviously going to be the most important part of your case,” Criminal Defense Attorney Jim Todd explained. He said while the confession will be the state’s key piece of evidence, it could force the defense to put Daniels on the stand if it doesn’t contain his recantation. "The jury won’t hear it unless he takes the stand and tells them, and that puts the defense in a very complicated position."

Todd also predicts Daniels’ wife, Krystal Daniels, could testify against him.

Daniels is charged with five counts: first-degree murder, first-degree murder in perpetration of a felony, aggravated child abuse, initiating a false report, and tampering with evidence.  

The trial will resume Friday at 8:30 a.m.

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A jury has been selected for the trial of Joseph Daniels and opening arguments will begin on Thursday in Charlotte.

12 jurors and four alternates have been seated for the trial. They will be bused to Dickson County on Wednesday night for testimony and opening statements starting 1:00 p.m. Thursday.

The jurors will be sequestered during the trial at the Dickson County Judicial Center in Charlotte.

Original story 

Jury selection in the trial of Joseph Daniels is set to begin Tuesday. 

Daniels is charged with the murder of his 5-year-old son Joe Clyde Daniels, who was reported missing in April 2018. Days later, Joseph confessed to murdering his son, who was autistic and non-verbal. He said he bet his son to death but he couldn't remember where he buried the body.

Joe Clyde's body has never been found, despite massive searches in the area around Charlotte, Tennessee, where the family lived.

Authorities said Daniels confessed to killing his son three separate times but has since recanted the confession.

Video of Joseph's confession was recently ruled to be admissible evidence in the trial. Judge David Wolfe ruled that the confession tape is admissible if the state meets the "Bishop Standard," meaning if the state produces corroborating evidence that backs up Joseph's confession. 

The judge can still dismiss the confession tape at the time of the trial if the state does not produce enough evidence. 

Before Judge Wolfe ruled the confession tape was admissible, a police interrogation expert testified that he believed Daniels' interview with two TBI agents was coerced. 

The state came back to say that the expert's testimony was biased. 

Because of the publicity surrounding the case, the jury will be picked in Hamilton County, in an attempt to find people unfamiliar with the case.

Joe Clyde's mother is also charged in connection with her son's death. Authorities said Krystal Daniels heard the murder and saw her dead son but failed to report the crime. The parents will be tried separately.

WSMV contributed to this report.