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.