FORT WORTH (KFDX/KJTL) — Testimony continued for a fourth day in the capital murder trial of James Irven Staley, III, on Thursday, March 2, 2023, with testimony beginning around 9 a.m.
Expert witness recovers deleted messages
The State of Texas, represented by Wichita County District Attorney John Gillespie, called Tim Allen, a former Senior Special Agent with the United States Secret Service, to the stand to testify.
Allen specializes in cybersecurity and electronic crimes and has been designated by the prosecution as an expert witness.
Allen testified that he was able to retrieve messages from Staley’s phone, which was surrendered during a search warrant executed at his home on Irving Place on October 22, 2018, 11 days after two-year-old Jason Wilder McDaniel was found deceased.
Previous testimony revealed Staley denied giving his passcode to detectives with the Wichita Falls Police Department after the phone was seized.
Allen also said he was able to retrieve deleted text messages sent between Staley and Amber McDaniel, Wilder’s mother, from iMessage, SMS text messages, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat.
Nearly 10,000 messages between Staley and Amber
Allen testified he recovered a message sent by Staley on Snapchat to Amber five days after Wilder died. That message said, “I am thankful for every second we had together.”
Allen then testified that another recovered message sent by Staley to Amber via Snapchat urged Amber that “if you hate me as much as your mom does” to give the key to his house to Bubba McDaniel, Wilder’s father, and Ambers’s now-husband.
In all, Allen testified that he was able to discover 9,751 messages between Staley and Amber over the course of their brief romantic relationship, with the first message between the two sent on July 24, 2018, and the last one sent in October 2018 after Wilder’s death.
Gillespie would eventually explain that every text message between Amber and Staley was entered into an Excel spreadsheet, which includes the body of the message, what date and time each message was sent, as well as when it was read, who received the message, and who sent the message.
Jury receives binders containing messages
On Tuesday, February 28, following testimony and the release of the jury for the day, Gillespie told presiding judge Everett Young about redactions that had been made to that document, removing a number of text messages from it in preparation for the jury to receive them.
Gillespie said Staley’s defense attorneys Mark Daniel and Terri Moore had requested that all text messages between Amber and Staley that concerned their sexual relationship be redacted, which the prosecution agreed to do.
The messages were admitted into evidence Thursday morning.
Gillespie then produced a thick 3-ring binder containing all non-redacted messages between Amber and Staley for each of the seven women and five men of the jury.
Select messages read in open court
Gillespie then requested that select messages be read to the court, with Allen reading messages sent by Staley and Prosecutor Lisa Tanner reading messages sent by Amber.
Gillespie also produced foam board reproductions of several of those messages, entered into evidence for observation only.
The first messages read in court detail about the beginning of Staley’s relationship with Amber, and as the relationship quickly progressed, later messages reveal just how volatile it was.
Early in the exchanges, Staley makes mention of his bipolar disorder and depression.
In several messages, Staley boasts about his wealth, going as far as to say he could buy the bar Amber was working at in August of 2018 and burn it down for no apparent reason other than the fact that he has the means to.
As their relationship progresses, the language used by Staley when talking about Wilder grows increasingly hostile, derogatory, and explicit. Staley describes several ways in which he would like to discipline, punish, or harm Wilder, including putting him in a cage and buying him a shock collar, eventually saying he wanted to buy a dog so he could “beat the [expletive] out of him when Wilder’s bad.”
Previous witnesses have testified that Staley’s sense of humor is “off” and “dark”, and in some of the messages in which he speaks negatively about Wilder, he follows it up by saying he was only joking. However, as the relationship progressed, he eventually stopped clarifying when he was joking in the messages.
Several messages recovered and read to the court were messages also included in the arrest affidavit of Amber, who was indicted in 2021 for endangerment of a child and tampering with evidence. Those charges are still pending in Wichita County.
Before lunch, an exchange between Staley and Amber from September 1 and 2, 2018, was read following Wilder suffering an injury after Staley said he fell off the bed. showing how volatile and explicit Staley’s temperament was that evening.
Testimony resumed at around 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon after Judge Everett Young recessed the court to lunch. Allen and Tanner continued reading messages between Staley and Amber to begin the afternoon’s proceedings.
Gillespie noted during the reading of those messages that Staley stated in messages his desire to “punch Wilder in the face” several times.
The messages continue to be read as testimony continues. It is unclear at this time if any other witnesses are scheduled to take the stand on Thursday.
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.