“There’s a gleam now,” says Wilder McDaniel’s father after arrest in son’s death

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WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Only three days away from the anniversary of his untimely death, a major development in the investigation of his murder brings law enforcement one step closer in getting justice for Wilder.

Officials with the Wichita Falls Police Department announced Thursday charges are filed in the case of Wilder McDaniel nearly two years after his tragic death.

Mug from Okmulgee County jail roster, Oct. 8.

James Irven Staley III, 37, was arrested in Okmulgee County, Oklahoma at 10:20 a.m. Thursday morning.

Staley is charged with the murder of two-year-old Jason “Wilder” McDaniel that occurred in October 2018.

Staley is currently being held in Okmulgee County Jail.

His bond has not yet been set.

WFPD Chief of Police Manuel Borrego, District Attorney John Gillespie, Sgt. Charlie Eipper and Sgt. Brian Sheehan held a press conference Thursday afternoon to announce the development in the case. They also addressed the public outcry of no one being arrested for Wilder’s murder.

“We do not do our investigations based on emotion, they have to be on facts and the evidence that’s presented,” says Chief Borrego.

“While it looked like you know to the public that it was a slow investigation or nothing was going on we were all diligently working behind the scenes to build this case,” adds D.A. John Gillespie.

Wilder McDaniel was found dead at Staley’s home in the 2000 block of Irving Place on October 11, 2018.

Wilder’s parents, Robert “Bubba” McDaniel and Amber Odom McDaniel filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Staley in April 2019, accusing him of assault, negligence and gross negligence related to the death of their son.

After the press conference Amber addressed the media saying:

“Nothing will ever bring Wilder back and that’s the hardest part of all this, but it is one step closer and I know this fight has just started and we do have a long ways to go, but I am grateful for all the work that the police department and the DA’s office has done.”

Bubba, Wilder’s father adds, “You know you’ve been fighting so long enough for it, and trying to get them to say those words to you and when it’s actually said to you it’s kind of surreal.”

In June 2020, Borrego named Staley and Amber Odom McDaniel, Wilder’s mother, as persons of interest.

An extensive autopsy report from Dallas County medical examiners released in July suggested the cause of Wilder’s death to be homicidal from asphyxiation though the cause of death was still ruled undetermined at the time.

Dr. Suzanne Dakil

District Attorney John Gillespie said a key breakthrough in the case was analysis from Dr. Suzanne Dakil Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Dr. Dakil specializes in child abuse prevention and treatment. 

Gillespie said the autopsy was sent to Dr. Dakil, who has testified in many child abuse cases in Dallas County.

“The autopsy, while suspicious for homicide, was ruled undetermined,” Gillespie said. “Dr. Dakil provided us some very important key medical evidence, and she also helped tie the forensic evidence together.”

Please find the full press conference below:

Close friend and owner of Drink and Clink, Brenna Pohold is banding together with other businesses this weekend to honor the anniversary of Wilder’s death with a special, online fundraiser.

Some of the many treats Brenna Pohold, owner of Drink and Clink, will sell during the “Justice for Wilder” virtual fundraising event

“All of the profits from all the auction and his line of drinks and as well as 10% of everything else that we have in the store will go to The Oklahoma City Nursery crisis center,” says Brenna. “They have a special room there dedicated to him and that’s a place that’s kind of near and dear to Amber, Wilder’s mom and that’s where she wants everything to be donated.”

Click here to find out more about Drink and Clink’s “Justice for Wilder” fundraising event this weekend.

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