WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The mother of Jason Wilder McDaniel, who was indicted in July 2021 on charges related to the murder of her son, pleaded guilty to both offenses on Friday afternoon.
Amber Nichole McDaniel, 33, of Wichita Falls, pleaded guilty to one count of endangering a child and one count of tampering with evidence on Friday afternoon, April 28, 2023, during a scheduled pre-trial hearing in Wichita County Court At Law 2, the temporary home of the 30th District Court.
McDaniel will now face a jury of her peers to determine her sentence on these two charges. A date for that hearing has not yet been set. Sources close to the family said more information should be available next week.
The plea comes less than two months after her former boyfriend, James Irven Staley, III, 40, was found guilty of the capital murder of Jason Wilder McDaniel by a Tarrant County jury and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
McDaniel was indicted in 2021 on one count of endangering a child and one count of tampering with evidence. She turned herself in on July 8, 2021, and posted her bond later the same day.
The charges against McDaniel stem from the more than 9,000 text messages between herself and Staley over the course of their brief yet volatile relationship in 2018, many of which were read in open court during the testimony phase of Staley’s capital murder trial.
It was disclosed during the trial that McDaniel had deleted those messages from her phone, partially when she performed a factory reset of the phone in the weeks prior to Wilder’s death, and partially when she deleted Staley’s contact information and all messages between herself and Staley in the days following Wilder’s death.
The affidavit states that while the deleted messages show no violent messages from Amber about Wilder, “they show Amber ignoring or looking the other way regarding Staley’s expressed hatred and violence toward Wilder.”
While on the witness stand in Auxiliary Trial Room A of the Tim Curry Criminal Justice Center, McDaniel testified several times that she was aware that her testimony was being given “at her own peril”, meaning prosecutors will be able to use anything and everything she said from the stand against her regarding her pending charges.
Despite having the ability to invoke her Fifth Amendment right to refuse to testify and incriminate herself, McDaniel testified that she “owed it to her son” to take the stand and testify against Staley.
McDaniel also testified that when she agreed to testify in Staley’s capital murder trial, she did so without any deal or bargain on the table from the Wichita County District Attorney’s Office regarding any lesser sentence for the charges against her.
McDaniel testified numerous times during cross-examination that she was unsure of what she would do regarding her pending charges upon returning to Wichita Falls after the conclusion of Staley’s trial.
At one point, McDaniel testified that she wasn’t hoping that her charges would be dismissed because she chose to testify against Staley.
During McDaniel’s testimony on March 6 and 7, she addressed many of the “red flags” she ignored, stating from the stand that she “became numb to the constant barrage of insults from Staley” and stopped giving Staley any pushback to his negative statements because when she would, “Staley would make her feel crazy”.
During Prosecutor Lisa Tanner’s final line of questioning with McDaniel during Staley’s capital murder trial, she instructed McDaniel to read a line she said during an initial interview with police following Wilder’s death in 2018, in which McDaniel stated to officers, “I should have freaking known.”
Tanner said, “Truer words have never been spoken, have they?” McDaniel responded, “No”, with tears in her eyes.