DICKSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Following a lengthy interrogation and confession, Joseph Daniels told detectives he buried his five-year-old son, Joe Clyde, in a large field, placing grass over his body, a sergeant testified Wednesday morning.
Detective Trevor Daniel, a sergeant with the Criminal Investigation Division of the Dickson County Sheriff’s Office, took the stand on day six of the trial for Joseph Daniels. He recalled initially speaking with the suspect on the morning of April 4, 2018 after he reported his son, known as “Baby Joe,” missing from the family’s home on Garners Creek Road.
A few hours later, around 12:30 p.m., Detective Daniel said he was advised that Joseph Daniels had asked for someone to check his vehicle. The detective returned to the residence and said he opened the trunk of the vehicle and looked inside.
PROSECUTOR: “What did you see?”
DANIEL: “Nothing, nothing of note. Joe Clyde wasn’t in there.”
District Attorney Ray Crouch asked Detective Daniel additional questions about that vehicle search.
PROSECUTOR: “Did you think that was odd?”
DANIEL: “I did.”
PROSECUTOR: “Why did you think that was odd?”
DANIEL: “I mean, why wouldn’t you check it? I mean, if he wanted to know… it was just odd.”
Joseph Daniels eventually confessed on the night of April 6, 2018 to fatally beating Joe Clyde, who was non-verbal and had autism, then dumping his body in a rural area. That confession came during a four-hour interrogation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Detective Daniel testified that later that night, he drove around with the suspect for approximately five hours, looking for the spot where he disposed of his five-year-old son’s body.
Twelve clips of that ride were played for the courtroom, during which, Detective Daniel said Joseph Daniels made “spontaneous” statements. Those include “I just want him to be happy,” “I just want to tell my wife I’m sorry,” and “Alex is a good boy. He isn’t a liar. I guess he won’t be my stepson anymore.”
Joseph Daniels made several references to his then eight-year-old stepson, Alex Nolan, and stated that he “saw everything” and had likely told investigators. Now eleven years old, Alex testified Monday morning that Joseph Daniels had threatened to kill him, as he watched his stepfather carry Joe Clyde and walk along Garners Creek Road the morning of April 4, 2018.
In the clips, Joseph Daniels explained that he put Joe Clyde’s body in a field and “he has grass covered over him.”
“He’s in that field. I know it’s a big field, but he’s in that field,” he explained.
Joseph Daniels later explained he had lied and his son’s body was in a pond, according to investigators.
Detective Daniel provided maps showing the area searched for Joe Clyde. More than three years later, the child’s body has never been located.
During cross examination, the defense asked about the search of Joseph Daniels’ vehicle on April 4, 2018.
DEFENSE: ‘You testified earlier that you looked into the trunk, didn’t you?”
DANIEL: “Yes sir.”
DEFENSE: “You did not find any blood in that trunk did you?”
DANIEL: “No sir.”
DEFENSE: “You didn’t find any bodily fluids in that trunk did you?”
DANIEL: “No sir.”
DEFENSE: “You didn’t find any hair in that trunk, did you?”
DANIEL: “No sir, that was just a cursory look.”
DEFENSE: “You didn’t find any teeth in that trunk?”
DANIEL: “No sir.”
Brandt Holt, who was a special agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in April 2018, testified Wednesday morning, as well.
Holt explained that he picked up Joseph Daniels on the morning of April 7, 2018, the day after his confession, because the suspect wanted to “provide closure” and disclose the location of Joe Clyde’s body.
When Holt spoke with Joseph Daniels, he said he admitted that he had put Joe Clyde’s body in the trunk of his car, then stopped at the Love’s Truck Stop to purchase a Dr. Pepper. He confessed he then drove to Hickman County “because [Baby Joe] loved water” and dropped his son’s body off a bridge.
“He mentioned that it was a long way down to the body,” Holt recalled.
PROSECUTOR: “Did you find any evidence at any of these bridges that Joe Clyde’s body had been dumped or discarded?”
HOLT: “No, sir.”
Jake Lockert, the public defender representing Joseph Daniels, has argued his client’s confession was coerced and it has since been recanted; however, the judge allowed it to be played for the jury and used as evidence at the trial.
Day six of the trial began around 8 a.m. Wednesday and was expected to wrap up for the day around 5 p.m.
The trial itself, which started last Thursday afternoon, is scheduled to last for approximately two weeks, though the prosecution has said it expects its questioning to finish Thursday night or Friday morning.
The jury was chosen from a pool of people in Chattanooga, all of which the judge said had never heard the name “Baby Joe.” That jury consists of 12 jurors and four alternates, made up of ten women and six men.
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.
UPDATE: The jury reached a verdict on Saturday, June 12, 2021. Joseph Daniels was found guilty of murdering his son Joe Clyde Daniels. Joseph Daniels was convicted on a charge of first-degree murder in perpetration of a felony, as well as second-degree murder, for fatally beating five-year-old Joe Clyde, whose body has never been located.