James Staley murder trial: Prosecution, defense rest cases on ninth day

Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 9:56 AM CST
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - Testimonies continued for the ninth day on Thursday, March 9, 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.

*WARNING: This report contains graphic content. Viewer discretion is advised.*


Dr. Suzanne Dakil, assistant professor of Pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center, was the next person to take the stand. She was asked by law enforcement to review Wilder’s death in 2020, and authorities in north Texas often go to her when cases involve child abuse.

During her testimony, Dakil documented abnormal injuries on Wilder after his death, including bruising on his arms, legs and head, petechiae, and abrasions on his head and face. Dakil described the petechiae as “significant.” Petechiae is described as tiny round brown or purple spots due to bleeding under the skin.

Dakil said Wilder had no skull fracture, no bleeding around the brain, no broken bones, and he was of normal weight and size for his age. She said the injuries Wilder had can be caused by someone putting a pillow over his face.

Prosecutors asked Dakil if she agreed that Wilder was too big for a crib, which the defense has said multiple times is supposedly in the AAP guidelines. Dakil said she could not find that anywhere in the AAP guidelines, and she disagrees that Wilder should not have been in a crib anymore. She said it’s not common for 2 1/2 year olds to die from falling out of a crib.

Dakil testified that if someone fell out of a crib, she would have expected to see an epidural bleed in the brain or skull fractures, which were not seen in Wilder’s autopsy. She said she did not see anything that led her to believe Wilder died from an accident, and she believes he died from “child physical abuse by suffocation.”

When asked if Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) could have been a possibility in Wilder’s case, Dakil said, “no.”

The defense then started their cross-examination by asking Dakil about her day-to-day operations at her clinic. They also asked her if she has ever performed an autopsy, to which she said, “no.”

Dakil said it is common for a pediatric death to be undetermined. She also said you don’t get petechiae from a fall or from CPR.

The prosecution has now rested its case against Staley.


Staley’s lawyers are now presenting their case and have called their first witness to the stand, paramedic Nathan Scott. He responded to Staley’s house when Wilder was found dead. The defense asked him to talk about when he responded to the house, and Scott said Wilder was already dead when he got there.

Prosecutors asked Scott if he saw Staley console or hug Amber Odom McDaniel, Wilder’s mother, when he responded to the house, to which Scott said, “no.”

Jason Odom, who has known Staley since 2013, was the next person called to testify. While Jason’s last name is the same as Amber’s maiden name, the two are not related.

Dr. John Galazik was called to the stand. He used to be a pediatrician, but stopped seeing patients in 2017; he now helps with court cases. The defense then hit a roadblock when they forgot to inform the state about Galazik’s appearance on the stand 36 hours prior to testifying, an idea first presented by the defense and agreed upon by both sides.

After searching for Galazik, Judge Young recessed the court only to find he had been sitting in the courtroom the whole time.

Galazik told the jury about small falls and their potential for a fatality in children. He testified that in 2017, a study showed about 1,000 kids visit the ER every year with a concussion that leads to death.

He also said the standard recommended time for kids to transition from a crib to a bed is when they are 35 inches or when the child’s chest reaches the top of the crib.

James Varnon, a retired Fort Worth Police Department officer who spent 25 years as a crime scene officer, was the next person to take the stand. Arguments and objections broke out during Varnon’s testimony. Staley’s lawyers asked him if in his experience as a crime scene officer, he thinks crime scene evidence should be packed together or separately, to which Varnon said separately.

After Varnon, private investigator Bill Clutter was the next person to give his testimony. He said he does not have good opinion of Tom Bevel, a crime scene reconstruction company owner that the prosecution previously called to the stand. He also brought up that Bevel’s testimony was thrown out of the recent Alex Murdaugh murder case. More yelling and objections ensued during his testimony.

The defense then rested their case right around 4 p.m., with final arguments set to begin next week. The jury was dismissed until 9 a.m. on Monday, March 13, 2023.

Lawyers will meet with Judge Young for a charge conference 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.