James Staley murder trial: Testimonies continue for fourth day

Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 10:55 AM CST
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - Testimonies continued for the fourth day on Thursday, March 2, 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.


Testimonies started on Thursday with Dr. Daunne Peters, Wilder’s pediatrician. Peters testified that Amber McDaniel, Wilder’s mother, always kept him up to date on his checkups and appointments.

Peters said in her 23 years as a pediatrician, she has treated many children who have fallen out of their cribs but has never seen it cause a death.

The next person to take the stand was Tim Allen, who works for a Dallas criminal defense law firm and has also worked for the Secret Service. He was asked to recover text messages in this case, and he was able to recover over 9,000 messages from Snapchat, Facebook and iMessage from August of 2018 between Staley and Amber.

The prosecution is presenting screenshots of the messages recovered by Allen. Messages from Staley to Amber allegedly included the following:

  • “You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever had the chance to meet. I’ll always be here for you. The credit card still works, go for it if you ever need anything.”
  • “I’m telling you for your own good, and your sons, stay the f*** away from me.”
  • “Unless they are mine, I don’t like kids. Can’t fix that babe. Sorry.”
  • “I am selfish, I can’t do another guy’s kid, maybe I can, but not YOUR kid.”

After those messages, Staley told Amber he had not taken his medicine and it messes him up. A message from Amber to Staley said, “I can’t get myself to bring Wilder to your house. If he cries, I am going to be on edge because of you. You just don’t like him.”

More messages from Staley to Amber reportedly included the following:

  • “You can only come to my house if I find a cage for your devil child.”
  • “I want to punch him in the face, but he’s too cute. How are we supposed to get rid of him? This is not working as planned.”
  • “I have the perfect prank. We set up a false adoption agency, we take Wilder there, and we leave him for a day or two.”
  • “I should have punched him in the face and kicked him to the floor and said f*** you snake.”
  • “Babe, there is no other way. We are just going to have to get rid of him.”
  • “I hope Wilder gets eaten by a cow.”
  • “Can we beat Wilder for fun?”
  • “I like punching him in the face when he whines, but it’s getting old.”
  • “Don’t worry, if this doesn’t work out, I’ll kill you. So it will be the last relationship you’re in.”
  • “Maybe he will get SIDS.” (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)

During the defense’s cross-examination, Staley’s lawyers argued the text messages “sound like two people who are in love and are just having ups and downs while going through life together.”

Shayla Wakefield, Amber McDaniel’s sister, was the final person to take the stand on Thursday. As part of her testimony, Wakefield said “Amber died with Wilder that day.”

Wakefield testified that days before Wilder’s death, a bunch of people were at her parents’ house. When Amber told Wilder they had to leave to go to Staley’s house, Wilder reached back and yelled for Shayla, saying, “no James.”

Court proceedings wrapped up early on Thursday out of an abundance of caution due to storms near Fort Worth. The trial will resume on Friday at 9 a.m.


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.