DICKSON, Tenn., (WKRN) — When the 911 call came in from Joseph Daniels about his 5-year-old son, first responders sprang into action.
Joseph Daniels told dispatchers on April 4, 2018, “My son has escaped. We cannot find him.”
“It wasn’t uncommon to be called out there because little Joe had left the house. I think that’s what kinda threw everybody off on this one,” said Luke Williams with Tennessee City Volunteer Fire and Rescue.
A few days into the around-the-clock search the focus shifted when Joseph Daniels allegedly admitted to investigators that he killed Joe Clyde, also known as Baby Joe.
Donning a t-shirt with the phrase “Super Dad” printed on the chest, Daniels was taken in for questioning.
On the confession tape Daniels told investigators, “You know what? I’m going to be honest with myself Ok? Ok?” as he started to cry.
TBI Special Agent Joey Boyd, the lead case agent for the investigation, said Daniels admitted the original story was a lie. “That he beat Joe Clyde resulting in his death,” Boyd said.
“How many times did you hit him in the head?” An investigator can be heard asking on the confession tape. Joseph Daniel responded, “A couple times. He was crying. I was just so angry with him.”
“He took Joe Clyde,” explained Special Agent Boyd, “Placed him in the trunk of his car and took him to a remote area where he dumped and disposed of the body.”
Daniels led investigators to a location. They searched, and they searched, but there were no signs of Baby Joe. Then, his story changed.
“I am now telling you the truth about that part. I placed Baby Joe’s body in the pond,” Daniels told investigators.
Still, no signs of the child’s body.
“Anybody that owns a farm or property in this area talks about how every time they go out, they still look places for him. They’re still scared that they’re going to find remains,” said Williams.
Those remains may never be found.
Boyd explained, “He wanted to tell us where the body was, but he couldn’t. He stated he didn’t want people to see what he’s done to Joe Clyde.”
The tight-knit community feels a sense of responsibility for the non-verbal boy with autism.
“When his father confessed, it created this weight for a lot of people. Like, ‘Oh man, this is almost more my burden to carry,'” said Williams.
Some in the community disappointed they hadn’t done more beforehand to keep the child safe. Williams continued, “Having closure for that is something that not just first responders need, but I think our entire community needs.”
All hope to learn more when the case goes to trial in June, when hopefully answers come to those lingering questions.
“Where do I think Baby Joe is?” Williams asked himself while shaking his head. “You ask the community where he’s at – up in heaven.”
Joseph Daniels has since recanted his confession.