It was April 4, 2018, and colder than normal when Joe Clyde Daniels was reported missing by his father, Joseph Daniels.
They were looking for a little boy wearing black pajamas with a white skeleton, like the ones kids wear at Halloween.
He didn’t know if he had shoes on because he told the dispatcher his boy snuck out of the home.
To make matters more serious, Joe Clyde had autism and was non-verbal so he couldn’t yell for help if he was cold or in trouble.
There were too many volunteers to count when Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe asked for the community’s support as this search began. People had to be turned away. Churches opened their doors, neighbors made hot breakfast for search crews, people took off work to come and pray for Joe Clyde.
Joseph Daniels spoke to News 2 on April 6, 2018, saying he was worried his son was lonely, tired and scared. Hours later, he was questioned again by investigators. April 7, Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe announced he arrested and charged Joe Clyde’s father with criminal homicide.
Joe Clyde’s mother, Krystal Daniels, was charged a few days later.
Court documents revealed the conversation between Joseph Daniels and investigators that led to his arrest.
His arrest affidavit said Daniels “struck the boy in the body, upper torso, head, and face with a closed fist until his son was deceased” at their residence on Garners Creek Road. “Daniels then placed the body of his son in the trunk of his car and disposed of the body in a remote, rural area.”
Officers say Krystal Daniels was home at the time but instead of interceding to help her son, she went to sleep.
At Centennial Elementary School, where Joe Clyde was a kindergartner, the principal works to find the balance as they remember “a sweet little boy.”
“There’s an ebb and flow to grief. And they’d be fine and then they would just say, ‘I miss Joe. Yeah, we do too. We miss Joe.'” said Crysti Sheley, Principal, Centennial Elementary School, when talking about how Joe Clyde’s classmates have been the past year.
She added, “We remember him fondly but we don’t focus on what we’ve learned since then. We feel like that’s up to parents to talk to them as much or as little as they want to.”
There are signs of Joe Clyde around campus, from a Free Little Library to a butterfly he painted hanging in the front office.
“The last day Joe was here, they were painting butterflies in art class,” said Principal Sheley. “So now it hangs in our office and it’s just a subtle little remembrance of Joe and something he enjoyed doing.”
There is no grave for Joe Clyde but a marker is placed beneath one of the apple trees planted in his memory.
“They’re thriving and when they bloom for years to come, you know, we will think about him and his gentle sweetness.”
His parents are in jail and their trials are expected to happen next year. Joseph Daniels appeared in court in February asking to transfer jails, complaining he’s lost weight and hasn’t been able to sleep well.
Meanwhile, his son’s body has never been found.
There will be a community vigil Thursday night at 7:00 at Friendship Baptist Church.