Baby Joe: Principal reflects on loss felt at Dickson school

Special Reports

DICKSON, Tenn., (WKRN) — He had a charming smile that captured hearts at his school. The loss felt in the disappearance of Joe Clyde Daniels III still lingers three years later.

“Sweet little boy, he would come in smiling every morning,” said Crysti Sheley, principal at Centennial Elementary School in Dickson.

“His teachers just loved him. He was just a sweet soul. Just that grin; I won’t ever forget that grin.”

The five-year-old was in kindergarten at Centennial Elementary in 2018.

Sheley said the campus was shaken by his disappearance and presumed death.

“It was a tragedy for our whole community – our school in particular,” Sheley said. “His teachers, who worked with him, saw growth, and loved to be with him.”

Around the school there are tributes to the beloved young student, known affectionately as Baby Joe.

Artwork and a copy of a resolution from the Tennessee House of Representatives to honor his memory are displayed at the school. Sheley said there was an outpouring of support from the Middle Tennessee community and beyond.

“We have many, many books in our library that came from all over the country,” Sheley said. “People would drive by and just drop off apples. We had decided as a school what we would do for all of our students, give all of our students an apple and talk about how sweet he was and how much we miss him. That’s all we talked about.”

Apples were Baby Joe’s favorite snack. Now there is a permanent tribute to that memory of him outside the school. A woman who lives in Columbia, Tennessee donated two apple trees.

“It just goes on and on. It doesn’t stop with a year’s anniversary or two years’ anniversary; it doesn’t stop,” Sheley said. “I don’t know that it ever will. I hope for some closure, for all the people who loved him. I still hope they find something. I hope for justice; I pray for mercy.”

Joe Clyde’s father, Joseph Daniels, has been charged with criminal homicide in his death.

His mother, Krystal Daniels, is facing a charge of aggravated child neglect or endangerment.  

The trial has been set for June 1st.

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