FORT WORTH (KFDX/KJTL) — Amber Odom McDaniel, the mother of Jason Wilder McDaniel, returns to the witness stand to testify in the capital murder trial of James Irven Staley, III, the man accused of killing her 2-year-old son.
When the court was dismissed into recess by Judge Everett Young on Monday, March 6, 2023, Staley’s defense attorney Terri Moore was in the process of cross-examining McDaniel.
A running live blog of her testimony can be found below. This story will be updated frequently as her testimony and cross-examination progress.
9:50 a.m. — Amber McDaniel is released from the witness stand after about eight and a half hours of testimony. The court is adjourned to a short recess.
9:48 a.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner references the October 12 interview between Amber McDaniel and the police, in which toward the end of the interview, Amber reads the transcript of that interview, in which Amber told the police about Wilder’s fear of James Staley. Amber, with tears in her eyes once again, reads a sentence in which she told police, “I should’ve freaking known.” Tanner asks, “Truer words have never been spoken, have they?” Amber, crying, replies, “No.”
Defense attorney Terri Moore passes the witness back to the prosecution.
9:45 a.m. — Defense attorney Terri Moore references that Staley and his daughter knew the passcode to Amber McDaniel’s phone. Moore asked if there would be any reason for Staley or his daughter to use her phone for internet searches of Tara Campisi and Staley’s business partner, and Amber said no.
Prosecutor Lisa Tanner passes the witness to defense attorney Terri Moore to follow up.
9:42 a.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner asked Amber McDaniel if, during the Snapchat messages Staley sent her following Wilder’s death, if Staley ever sent condolences, used Wilder’s name, said he missed Wilder, or that he was sorry for her loss. McDaniel testified that he did not.
9:38 a.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner said that the dark jokes about Wilder stopped being jokes after the jury saw irrefutable evidence of Staley slapping Wilder in the face, referencing a video shown to the court of Staley slapping a sleeping Wilder while he was on the couch. Tanner asks Amber McDaniel if striking a sleeping baby in the face is just a “funky sense of humor”, as the defense alleged about the derogatory comments Staley made in text messages read during cross-examination. Amber, in tears, said, “No ma’am.”
9:35 a.m. — Amber McDaniel testifies that if she’d only received the bad text messages from James Staley regarding her son, Wilder McDaniel, she would not have stuck around. Amber testifies that there was a push and pull in the relationship, and the “lovey-dovey” messages were why she stuck around.
9:34 a.m. — Through tears, Amber testifies that she knew her son better than anyone after Prosecutor Lisa Tanner addresses defense attorney Terri Moore’s interpretation of Wilder’s attitude toward James Staley in the videos.
9:33 a.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner addresses videos shown to Amber McDaniel by the defense team earlier Tuesday morning. Tanner apparently suggests that the video of Wilder starting a fire a few days before he was found deceased actually was taken much earlier.
9:28 a.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner brings up the statement Wilder used to say, “No James”, and addresses when Wilder would say “No Summer” in reference to Amber McDaniel’s best friend. Amber testified that Wilder used to say, “No Summer”, but it stopped after about two weeks. Amber then testifies that Wilder’s use of the phrase “No James” actually started later in the relationship, not in the beginning.
9:26 a.m. — Amber McDaniel has now been on the witness stand for approximately 8 hours in total since Monday, March 6, 2023.
9:25 a.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner rebuts another claim made by the defense during cross-examination, asking about an exchange in which Terri Moore claimed Amber McDaniel brought Wilder’s father and her now husband, Bubba McDaniel, into the conversation. Tanner alleges that in fact, Staley brought Bubba McDaniel up first in the exchange.
9:22 a.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner rebuts a claim by the defense during cross-examination that the days leading up to Wilder’s death were “normal”. Tanner asks if it was normal or abnormal for Staley to call Wilder whiny, derogatory names, and for him to yell at Wilder. Amber testified that it was normal in this relationship. During this line of questioning, Terri Moore angrily objects due to leading, but Judge Young overrules the objection.
9:20 a.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner questions Amber McDaniel again about early interviews between herself and Det. Chad Nelson. Amber reads the transcripts, showing she told Det. Nelson that she was concerned that Staley had hurt her child.
9:18 a.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner addresses the social media and internet activity from Amber McDaniel’s phone the night before Wilder was found deceased. Tanner asks McDaniel if anyone else knew the passcode on her phone. She testified both Staley and his daughter, Brooklyn, knew her passcode.
9:16 a.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner rebuts a point made by defense attorney Terri Moore during cross-examination that the police “planted the seed” in Amber’s head of Staley murdering Wilder.
9:15 a.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner has Amber McDaniel read a transcript of an interview conducted with the Wichita Falls Police Department in January 2019. Det. Chad Nelson conducted a follow-up interview with Amber now that she was “thinking more clearly”, and she had three months to grieve the death of her son.
9:12 a.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner asks Amber McDaniel to recall October 11 and 12, 2018 and asks Amber if she was thinking clearly. She testified that she was not at that time. Amber testifies that initial interviews with the police were initiated by her. She testified she was still in shock during these interviews.
9:10 a.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner questions Amber McDaniel about their interactions prior to the beginning of the trial. Amber testifies that until she took the stand, she had not engaged with anyone in a question-and-answer type interview with the State.
The defense team passes the witness. The State, represented by Prosecutor Lisa Tanner, is now questioning Amber McDaniel.
9:07 a.m. — Amber McDaniel testifies that during initial interviews with Det. Chad Nelson on October 11, 2018, and October 12, 2018, she did not disclose an interaction between Staley and Wilder, in which she later told police she became angry at Staley because he mocked Wilder and told him to “shut the [expletive] up.”
9:05 a.m. — Amber McDaniel testifies that she does not recall posting on Facebook at 11:58 p.m. on October 10, 2018, and she doesn’t recall a phone call between James Staley and Jason Odom at 12:25 a.m. on October 11, 2018.
9:03 a.m. — Defense attorney Terri Moore approaches the easel upon which a timeline of events on October 10 and October 11, 2018. Moore asks Amber McDaniel about Facebook reactions and internet history on that evening.
8:57 a.m. — Defense attorney Terri Moore directs Amber McDaniel to read text exchanges between Amber and Staley on October 10, 2018, the day before her son, Wilder McDaniel, was found deceased inside Staley’s home. Amber and Staley appear to be in a happy relationship at this point in time.
8:52 a.m. — More texts from October 9, 2018, show some loving exchanges between Staley and Amber.
8:48 a.m. — Several of the videos Moore shows the courtroom are videos of Wilder in the days before he was found deceased in Staley’s home on October 11, 2018. Amber McDaniel has already shed several tears in the early moments of Tuesday’s cross-examination. Terri Moore asks jurors to pull out their binders of text message exchange, apparently to begin addressing text messages between Amber and Staley.
8:45 a.m. — The next videos show Wilder in different settings with Staley. Some also have Brooklyn, Staley’s daughter. Amber McDaniel is visibly emotional as videos of Wilder play for the court. Defense attorney Terri Moore asks if Wilder looks like he’s shying away. Amber says at times that Wilder does look uncomfortable. Moore asks if that’s Amber’s opinion, and Amber reiterates that it is.
8:39 a.m. — The first video shown is of Staley holding Wilder as he holds a stick lighter to a grill to light it. Staley praises Wilder for lighting the grill, and Wilder appears excited. Amber McDaniel can be observed apparently holding back tears as the video of Wilder plays.
8:36 a.m. — Defense attorney Terri Moore admits a flash drive into evidence. The drive contains videos of Wilder and defendant James Staley. Moore warns Amber McDaniel this may be emotional and apologizes in advance.
8:33 a.m. — Amber McDaniel returns to the witness stand. The jury is called into the courtroom.
This is a developing story. Stick with Texoma’s Homepage for updates as the capital murder trial of James Staley in connection to Wilder McDaniel’s death takes place at the Tim Curry Criminal Justice Center in Fort Worth, Texas.