James Staley murder trial: Testimonies continue for third day

Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 10:15 AM CST
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - Testimonies continued for the third day on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, for the trial of the man accused of murdering 2-year-old Jason Wilder McDaniel in his home in October of 2018.

Judge Everett Young is presiding over James Staley III’s case at the Tarrant County Courthouse in Fort Worth. News Channel 6′s Alyssa Osterdock and Joseph Saint will be covering the trial to bring you the latest developments.


Chad Nelson, the former lead detective in Wilder’s case, continued his testimony Wednesday morning. Staley’s lawyers so far are cross examining Nelson by going over every detail of the police report.

The defense presented the bag containing the items collected from the crib, continuing to suggest that the items could have transferred DNA to one another.

While the prosecution questioned Nelson, he testified that during his interview with Amber McDaniel, she said “I wish he would have killed me and not my baby.”

It was noted that when Staley’s phone was seized by law enforcement, he refused to provide the passcode. Nelson said he could not report one cooperative action by Staley, up until his arrest in Okmulgee, Oklahoma.

Amber Campisi then took the stand around 11 a.m. She is the aunt of Staley’s daughter, and her sister Tara is the mother of Staley’s 8-year-old child.

Prosecutors presented screenshots of a text from Staley to Amber Campisi, saying “I have a secret, please let me tell you. I can’t hold it in. Call me please.” Staley had also sent a message to Amber Campisi over Snapchat, saying “Your sister is pregnant with her new boyfriend.”


The next person to take the stand was Sgt. Danny Wiggins, the person who informed Amber McDaniel’s stepfather, David, that Wilder had died. Wiggins was also in charge of detectives at the scene.

The defense team asked Wiggins about Staley’s cooperation at the residence when Wilder was found dead. They also revisited the fact that after Wilder was found dead, Staley had 11 days before the search warrant that he could have destroyed any evidence, such as the crib or phones, but he did not.

After Wiggins, former WFPD detective Betty Dean began her testimony. She is the person who requested pieces of evidence to be packaged, including Wilder’s clothes, the white sheet he was wrapped in, all bedding in the crib, Amber McDaniel’s shirt, a swab of the blood on the floor, empty wine bottles, and paper towels in the trash. Dean testified she did not know the items had been packaged in the same bag until the defense informed her on Wednesday during the trial.


The final person to testify was Amber Koch, a former coworker of Staley’s. Amber testified that she asked Staley about how he felt about Amber McDaniel, and he responded by saying, “I love her and I want to be with her, but I don’t know about being a stepparent.” Koch also described Staley as “very manipulative.”

Throughout all cross-examinations, the defense team has asked every witness who responded to the scene if they knew that Amber McDaniel previously worked as a dispatcher for WFPD, and if this possibly had an impact on the investigation.

The trial is set to continue at 9 a.m. on Thursday.


Jury selection ran for three days starting on Feb. 22, 2023, with 100 potential jurors dwindled down to seven men and seven women who will serve as 12 jurors and two alternates. Staley’s trial is expected to last up to two weeks, according to Judge Young.

The defense and prosecution teams made their opening statements on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, which were followed by testimonies from five people.

Staley has pleaded not guilty to the crime. In August of 2022, Staley’s change of venue request was approved and his trial was moved from Wichita County to Tarrant County.

Staley’s attorneys had said the local jury pool has been tainted against him due to media coverage and Facebook outcry, and the safety of Staley and anyone connected to the case was also a concern.