DICKSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) - In a call to 911 on the morning of Wednesday, April 4, Joseph Daniels told a dispatcher that his five-year-old son Joe Clyde, who has autism and is non-verbal, was missing.
DISPATCHER: "911, where is your emergency?"
JOSEPH DANIELS: "Uh, yes, is this Dickson County 911?"
DISPATCHER: "Yes, sir."
JOSEPH DANIELS: "Um, I live at 1112 Garners Creek Road and my son has escaped. We cannot find him."
DISPATCHER: "What was he wearing last night
JOSEPH DANIELS: "Uh, he was wearing pajamas.”
DISPATCHER: "What kind of pajamas? What do they look like?”
DANIELS: "Um, my wife would know better than I would on that.”
DISPATCHER: “Do you know how he got out of the house?”
DANIELS: “He must’ve unlocked the door. He got out.”
Later that morning, the TBI issued an Endangered Child Alert for the child affectionately known as “Baby Joe”.
In the days that followed, hundreds of volunteers showed up from all over to search for miles around the missing child’s home.
“We're not giving up hope that he found a little shelter or shed so we're just doing everything that we can,” Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe with Dickson County explained.
Not wanting to talk on camera, Joseph Daniels told News 2 that he was afraid his son was “lonely, tired, scared and confused” and said the family was praying for the best.
On the morning of Saturday, April 7, Dickson County Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe made the announcement that Joseph Daniels had been charged with criminal homicide in the death of his son.
An arrest report stated that Daniels admitted to striking his son “repeatedly in the body, upper torso, head and face with a closed fist” until his son was dead.
It went on to say “Daniels then placed the body of his five-year-old son in the trunk of the car and disposed of his son’s body in a remote, rural area.”
The child’s mother Krystal Daniels was arrested two days later and charged with aggravated child abuse.
Investigators said she did nothing while her son was beaten and went to sleep while her husband left with the boy’s body.
Months of court dates followed, along with dozens of searches that covered dozens of acres around Baby Joe’s home.
"A lot of them are general. He's by a tree, by a creek, under a rock,” Sgt. Trevor Daniel with the Dickson County Sheriff’s Office. “We recently got a tip that someone had a map to Baby Joe. It didn't pan out because we still don't have him. I know they went out and looked at the area and searched the area where this map supposedly was."
The child’s grandparents said they would always hold out hope that Joe Clyde is alive.
"Our biggest fear is maybe if he got out the back door that a predator or something might have got him,” Belle Daniels, the child’s grandmother told News 2. “We hope nobody hurts him."
"All they gotta do is drive in my driveway in the middle of the night, knock on the door, give the baby back. I'll grab the baby and turn my back like I never seen who it was. I'll just tell the police, he came home. He walked home,” Joe Daniels, the boy’s grandfather added.
In October, a seemingly anonymous letter mailed to Baby Joe’s grandparents seemed to reinforce that. It claimed the five-year-old was alive.
The letter was turned over to the TBI and forensic scientists determined it was written by Joe Clyde’s father from behind bars.
Joseph Daniels remains jailed at Riverbend Maximum Security despite his request to be moved back to the Dickson County jail where Krystal Daniels is being held.
The two are tentatively set to go to trial in March 2019.
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