DICKSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — The defense attorney for the father of Joe Clyde Daniels said Thursday Baby Joe may still be alive but later apologized for false claims after the District Attorney said surveillance photos released of a boy at a convenience store was not Joe Clyde Daniels.
“After my press conference today, the District Attorney released photos that my office had not been provided in discovery. I immediately had my investigator forward the photos to one of the Benton County witnesses, and she has verified that the child in the photos was the child she believed to be Joe Clyde Daniels. I was raised to say you’re wrong when you’re wrong, so I now state the child seen in a store in Benton County was not Joe Clyde Daniels.”Public Defender Jake Lockert, representing Joe Daniels
According to the initial story provided in a news conference by Lockert earlier Thursday, a man claimed he saw Joe Clyde Daniels about 420 yards from his house around 12:45 or 1 a.m. on the day he disappeared. He was reportedly spotted 45 minutes to an hour after his father, Joe Daniels, said he killed the boy and got rid of the body. The man was driving through but didn’t think about reporting the boy.
Later that morning, two women at a convenience store said they saw the boy at the gas station around 8 a.m. He was traveling with an older white man with salt and pepper beard, hair, and mustache in a black and white school bus that was converted into an RV with either Massachusetts or Wisconsin tags. The store manager told investigators that the boy was nonverbal, he didn’t talk or react to her smile and looked at her with a blank stare. The boy was also wearing boots similar to the ones that Joe Clyde Daniels was wearing at the time of his disappearance.
Hours later when the Amber Alert was issued, the store manager called Benton County Sheriff’s Office because she was sure that the boy was Joe Clyde Daniels that she saw that morning. Officers spoke with the women and with Dickson County Sheriff’s Office.
Lockert said that the store manager searched the sex offender registry hoping to find the man that the boy was with. She also said that she saw no other children or adults were with him.
Two days after talking with investigators, the store manager reportedly reached out again and called Dickson County to remind them that they had seen the boy. Lockert said that he was the first to ask for surveillance video, not TBI or the police. The store manager reportedly put the tape back in the security system last year after she didn’t hear from officers and recorded over it.
Lockert said that Benton County Sheriff’s Office contacted Dickson County Sheriff’s Office and nobody followed up on the lead. The women at the convenience store said nobody came and got video or descriptions or statements of the man or the bus that he and the boy were traveling in. Benton County investigators said they weren’t doing anymore work on the case because they referred it to the county where he was spotted.
“If they had gotten copy of the video and been able to find Joe Clyde, he [Joe Daniels] wouldn’t be in jail,” said Lockert in his earlier news conference.
Lockert had earlier said his client’s confession was false and video evidence proves it. He said that he knew from videotape of a neighbor’s surveillance video that when Joe Daniels reportedly beat Joe Clyde, left a mess and put him in the car. He said it was not true because surveillance video showed the car never left the house at the time. There was also no blood evidence of the victim in the house or in the car.
“A neighbor had a surveillance camera aimed at the driveway, so TBI and my office determine that when my client said he put the boy in the car that is impossible, because the car never left the house and you see that on video,” said Lockert in his earlier news conference.
The body of Joe Clyde Daniels has yet to be found, and Lockert had earlier said three witnesses believed they saw the child in the hours after Joe Daniels confessed to killing him. Lockert said that proved there’s a good chance that the five-year-old made it down the road and got abducted.
“I think what they did when they got a confession was shut the case down,” added Lockert earlier, “They were looking for a body but not a live boy.”
It is unclear if the boy was wearing a skeleton t-shirt when he was spotted, but Lockert said he didn’t find it unusual if he wasn’t because ‘he wouldn’t have worn the same clothes he was abducted in.’
One of the witnesses reportedly told Lockert that she was confident it was Joe Clyde Daniels and not a Benton County child because she worked in the school system. She said the boy seemed to be dazed.
Lockert had earlier said he believed Joe Daniels’ first statement was true, but that after five or six hours he falsely confessed. He also claimed that his client is mentally ill, bipolar, and talks about medications. He believed that because of his client’s mental illness, he succumbed to pressure from TBI agents.
“Twenty five percent of those people give false confessions to crimes. TBI and Dickson County never followed up. For two years, TBI and Dickson County never bothered to talk to these ladies or get video,” said Lockert in his earlier interview. “I can tell you that 60 percent of kids that are abducted are not killed, they’re kept captive and because of that I hope officers try to locate this kid and black and white bus because if he’s still alive and being held somewhere, he needs to be found.”
Lockert initially said the man who reportedly saw Joe Clyde Daniels saw a child wearing skeleton pajamas.
“I believe that as he often did, he got out of the house, and was abducted,” said Lockert earlier.
Lockert earlier said it is important that the search for Joe Clyde Daniels continues.
“I thought about it and prayed about it, and I couldn’t sit on this until trial, which could be next year because of COVID-19, and I hope law enforcement will try to find him,” said Lockert.
District Attorney General Ray Crouch said law enforcement investigated the lead from Benton County. They were able to compare photos of Baby Joe the day before he went missing to pictures of the boy reported during the sighting. Law enforcement determined it was not Baby Joe, as the child pictured had longer hair.
“Law enforcement agencies have invested thousands of hours in this case,” Crouch said. “The T.B.I. and the Dickson County Sheriff’s Office has worked tirelessly and will continue to do so. Unfortunately, law enforcement does not get enough credit for their efforts because investigative strategies and details are not broadcast to the public.”
Lockert said that he should have been provided a report along with the photos.
“If I had been given a report and photos, I would have shown the photos to the witnesses and immediately verified that Joe Clyde Daniels was not in the Benton County. I apologize for any inconvenience,” said Lockert in a prepared statement Thursday evening.
This is a developing story. Stay with News 2 and WKRN.com for updates.