FORT WORTH (KFDX/KJTL) — A detective with the Wichita Falls Police Department who was assigned to be the lead investigator into the death of two-year-old Jason Wilder McDaniel on October 11, 2018, took the stand on Tuesday afternoon in the capital murder trial of James Staley.
Following proceedings that took place on the morning of Tuesday, February 28, 2023, in Auxillary Trial Room A in the Tim Curry Criminal Justice Center in Fort Worth, Texas, the State, represented by Wichita County District Attorney John Gillespie, called a detective with the WFPD who was the lead investigator from October 11, 2018, until May of 2020.
The detective said on the morning of October 11, 2018, he responded to Staley’s residents on Irving Place. He testified that when he arrived on the scene, he quickly heard the sounds of dispaired crying, which he later identified as coming from Wilder’s mother, Amber McDaniel.
The lead investigator testified under oath that when he found Staley in the residence, he was not with Amber and Wilder in the den of the home, but rather in a closet, sitting down in the fetal position with his knees pulled to his chest. The detective said when he found Staley, he wondered why he wasn’t with his girlfriend at the time, Amber McDaniel.
The detective then testified that he had attempted to record what was happening on the scene and conversations he had on his iPhone using the Voice Memo application, but somehow that voice memo was deleted and despite extensive efforts, has not been able to be retrieved.
The investigator testified that Staley was originally cooperative, answering his questions and complying with signing a consent for the police to search. The detective said when he read the last paragraph of that consent to search document, it stated that “anything seized can be used against you in a criminal proceeding.”
According to the detective, Staley then asked what criminal proceeding he was referring to. The detective said he told Staley that all deaths are investigated as criminal until it’s discovered they’re not. He said after this, Staley began to sob.
During his testimony, the State showed a clip of Amber McDaniel a few hours after Wilder’s body was discovered. When the detective informed Amber there was blood found on Wilder’s crib, her face turned to a blank stare, she covered her mouth and said, “Did James do something?” She proceeded to bury her head into her hands and wail, saying, “Oh my god” repeatedly.
The State questioned the detective for well over two hours before passing the witness to the defense. Then, Staley’s defense attorney Mark Daniels began to cross-examine him in what can be described as an aggressive manner.
Daniels asked about meetings the detective had with Gillespie at the Wichita County District Attorney’s office prior to his testimony. He then asked several questions of the detective, who has since been moved to another area within the WFPD.
The detective said he was eventually taken off the case after evidence seized from Staley’s home was sent to a forensics lab, but due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, they had reduced their staff and told WFPD officials it would take some time to process their evidence.
At that time, the detective testified that the case was moved to a cold case until the evidence could be processed, which occurred in May 2020. After that, the detective was laterally promoted to oversee another department within the juvenile division of the WFPD.
Judge Young recessed the court at 5 p.m. after Daniel informed him his line of questioning would take longer than a few minutes.
Testimony resumes on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, at 9:00 a.m. with Staley’s defense attorney continuing his cross-examination of the former lead detective in the investigation into Wilder’s death.
Judge Young also swore in a witness to be called on Wednesday named Amber Campisi, who is a member of the well-renowned Campisi family, who own and maintain a successful chain of restaurants in the Dallas area.
Campisi is the aunt of Staley’s daughter. Her sister, Tara Campisi, is the child’s mother and was formerly in some kind of relationship with Staley, though it is unclear at this time the extent to which they were in a relationship.
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.