DICKSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — While at the Child Advocacy Center the day after his son, Joe Clyde was reported missing, Joseph Daniels put bunny ears behind his stepson’s head and asked, “how’s that for child abuse?” according to witness testimony provided Monday.
Morgan Bowen worked as a family advocate for the Child Advocacy Center at the time. She took the stand in Joseph Daniels’ murder trial and was asked about an “odd” interaction with the suspect, when he brought in his eight-year-old stepson, Alex Nolan to be interviewed on April 5, 2018.
PROSECUTOR: “Did something kind of odd happen when you were filling out the intake paperwork?”
BOWEN: “Yes, sir.”
PROSECUTOR: “And what was that?”
BOWEN: “Um, there were several different things.”
PROSECUTOR: “What about the first thing? Was there something odd with the word ‘victim?'”
BOWEN: “Yes, the first two pages of our intake paperwork for the [Child Advocacy Center] is basic information, but at the top, it has the words ‘victim accompanied by’ and then there’s a line to put their name. Joseph became upset when he read the word ‘victim.'”
PROSECUTOR: “And what did he say exactly, if you remember?”
BOWEN: “I believe he said, ‘it’s not like I abuse my own children.'”
PROSECUTOR: “OK. And did you actually mark out the word ‘victim?'”
BOWEN: “Yes sir, I did.”
During her testimony, Bowen said Joseph Daniels then expressed that he hoped law enforcement would find “that boy,” his nickname for Joe Clyde, while they were at the Child Advocacy Center.
Bowen testified that Joseph Daniels was “cutting up” during the process and called it “very awkward.”
“He put bunny ears behind the child’s head and nudged him and then he said ‘how’s that for child abuse?'” she recalled.
Bowen also said Alex brought up a trip to Kansas that he was expected to take in June 2018 with his mother, Krystal Daniels, but “Joseph put his hand in front of Alex, kind of to hush him, and Alex stopped speaking about that.”
The statements from Bowen followed testimony by Alex Nolan, now eleven years old, who stated that he woke up early on April 4, 2018 to a loud bang. He said he eventually walked into the living room and saw Joe Clyde on the ground.
Alex explained that he witnessed Joseph Daniels carry Joe Clyde out the back door of the residence, so Alex followed quietly.
When Alex got to the edge of the house, he said he saw Joseph Daniels place Joe Clyde on the ground, then get down on his knee and look around. Minutes later, Alex said Joseph Daniels saw him peeking around the corner.
“He threatened that he would kill me if I didn’t help,” Alex testified Monday morning.
Joseph Daniels reported Joe Clyde missing on the morning of April 4, 2018, and said the boy had escaped from the family’s home. During a four-hour recorded confession, Joseph Daniels admitted to fatally beating his son, who had autism and was non-verbal, then dumping his body off a bridge into the water.
Jake Lockert, the attorney representing Joseph Daniels has said the confession, which was later recanted, was coerced, but a judge determined it could be used as evidence during the trial.
The body of Joe Clyde Daniels has never been found.
The trial for Joseph Daniels, which started last Thursday afternoon, is scheduled to run for approximately two weeks. The jury was chosen from Chattanooga and all 12 jurors and four alternates had never heard the name “Baby Joe,” according to the judge.
Joseph Daniels faces five charges, including first-degree murder and evidence tampering. He was jailed in Nashville, but has been moved to the Dickson County jail during the duration of his trial.
His wife, Krystal Daniels witnessed the fatal beating, but went to bed instead of helping her son, according to investigators. She is charged with aggravated child abuse and neglect and 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.