FORT WORTH (KFDX/KJTL) — The capital murder trial of James Irven Staley, III, for the death of 2-year-old Jason Wilder McDaniel, is set to continue with testimony on the seventh day of proceedings at the Tim Curry Criminal Justice Center in Tarrant County.
Wednesday, March 8, 2023, marks the eighth day of testimony in the trial, with several witnesses still expected to take the stand for the State of Texas before Staley’s defense team has the opportunity to bring their case.
A running live blog of Tuesday’s testimony can be found below. This story will be updated frequently as testimony and cross-examination of various witnesses progress.
Judge Everett Young dismisses the jury, then the gallery. Testimony is set to resume at 9 a.m. on Thursday, March 9, 2023.
5:00 p.m. — Dr. Dakil testified she found no concerns in Wilder’s medical history or chronic conditions present. Prosecutor Lisa Tanner said she was about to switch gears to discussing October 11, 2018.
4:58 p.m. — Dr. Dakil testified that she was asked to give an opinion on the manner of Wilder’s death, whether it was natural, accidental, or at the hands of another. Dr. Dakil testified that she saw nothing out of the ordinary with Amber’s pregnancy or Wilder’s birth. She testified that Wilder attended all of his regular well-baby checks. She stated Wilder had no major injuries on his medical record.
4:56 p.m. — Dr. Dakil testified that she was asked to review the death of Wilder McDaniel in September 2020 by law enforcement. She stated she was given a large amount of information, not all of which was relevant. Her findings were put into a report.
4:53 p.m. — Dr. Dakil testified that she often meets with law enforcement and prosecutors in tough cases involving child abuse. Dr. Dakil has also worked with Dr. Stephen Hastings, who performed Wilder’s autopsy, on previous cases. She said she’s one of the go-to authorities regarding child abuse in North Texas.
4:48 p.m. — Analysis from Dr. Dakil was instrumental in charges being brought in the case of Wilder’s death. “The autopsy, while suspicious for homicide, was ruled undetermined,” Wichita County District Attorney John Gillespie said in October 2020. “Dr. Dakil provided us some very important key medical evidence, and she also helped tie the forensic evidence together.”
4:44 p.m. — Dr. Suzanne Dakil is an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center. She is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in child abuse, a member of the REACH at Children’s Medical Center, and the director of the Child Abuse Fellowship at UT Southwestern.
Judge Everett Young brings the jury back into the courtroom and both sides let him know they’re ready to proceed. The State, represented by Prosecutor Lisa Tanner, calls. Dr. Suzanne Dakil.
Judge Everett Young excuses the witness. Counsel approached the bench briefly. Judge Young then dismisses the jury and sends the court to a brief recess.
4:21 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel alleged that Tom Bevel “got out of his lane” at the end of his report when referencing the substance on Staley’s nails and incorporating the fact that it might be blood.
4:18 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel stated that forensic examiners and other experts ought to “stay in their lane”, and Bevel agreed. Bevel also testified that he wouldn’t dispute claims that bruising on Wilder’s arms and legs is consistent with typical toddler bruising but testified that he also cannot ignore the presence of bruises on Wilder’s arms and legs.
4:15 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel again questioned Tom Bevel about the items of evidence being packaged together. Daniel then discusses the construction of the pillow and how different fabric absorbs blood differently, which Bevel acknowledged.
Prosecutor Lisa Tanner passes the witness to the defense team for further cross-examination.
4:09 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel objected due to a leading question from the prosecution. Before Prosecutor Lisa Tanner could say that she would rephrase the question, Daniel aggressively asked Judge Young for a ruling, then asked Judge Young to instruct the prosecution not to ask leading questions. Tanner replied that she was well aware of the rules of evidence. Judge Young sustained the objection and told both sides that he expects the rules to be followed.
4:07 p.m. — Tom Bevel testified that a space between a robust area of Wilder’s blood on the pillow and the suspected palm print suggests the pillow did not move, suggesting it may have been held in place.
3:59 p.m. — Tom Bevel testified that there was no indication from the physical evidence at the scene that Wilder was placed back into the crib after his death. Bevel reiterated that his opinion is that a struggle occurred. He said the bloodstain patterns on the pillow are indicative of a lot of movement, which points to a struggle.
3:52 p.m. — Tom Bevel testified that in fact there were injuries to Wilder’s head above the nose, and also testified that the bruising on Wilder’s extremities certainly could’ve been caused by a struggle.
3:50 p.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner addressed the incorrectly labeled photograph in Bevel’s report, and noted that there were numerous pictures from Wilder’s autopsy of Wilder’s extremities, noting bruising on them.
3:49 p.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner asked Tom Bevel what a technical editor does, and Bevel said he looks at the opinions offered and checks to see if a foundation supports that opinion. Bevel testified that a technical editor does not perform spelling checks or grammar corrections, or the functions of a copy editor. Bevel also testified that as he’s gotten older, his typing has gotten worse.
3:46 p.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner read a portion of Tom Bevel’s initial report, in which Bevel noted a substance photographed on Staley’s fingernails that could possibly be blood. Bevel testified that it was not tested at the scene or collected. Bevel testified he cannot rule out either salsa or blood as the substance on Staley’s fingernail.
3:44 p.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner read a portion of Tom Bevel’s initial report, in which Bevel states the analyst will readdress information deemed to be relevant and may add an addendum to the report, which Bevel testified that he did.
3:41 p.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner addressed the “salsa thing” with Tom Bevel.
Defense attorney Mark Terri Moore passes the witness back to the State for further questioning.
3:40 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel asked Tom Bevel if his work has any controversies involved in it. Bevel said all of forensic science is controversial at some point. Daniel addressed an apparent report by a national news outlet regarding Bevel’s work. Prosecutor Lisa Tanner objected due to characterization. The objection was sustained. A later objection by Tanner came on the grounds that other cases were addressed, which is improper. That objection was also sustained.
3:36 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel asked Tom Bevel to look at the jury and tell them if he saw an external injury on Wilder’s neck. Prosecutor Lisa Tanner objected, stating it’s a direct violation of the defense’s motion in limine for witnesses designated as experts to not testify as an expert on an area for which they are not considered an expert. Judge Young called both counsels to the bench for a discussion.
3:31 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel asked Tom Bevel if he saw in the autopsy report where Dr. Stephen Hastings said more information could change their opinion on an undetermined cause and manner of death. Bevel said he did not give his report to Dr. Hastings.
3:25 p.m. — Cross-examination of crime scene reconstructionist Tom Bevel by James Staley’s defense attorney Mark Daniel continues.
Judge Everett Young dismisses the jury, then the gallery. Testimony is set to resume following a short recess.
3:12 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel questioned Tom Bevel about the lack of swipe bloodstain patterns, which would indicate a struggle.
3:05 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel continued to grill Tom Bevel about the quality of his report on the crime scene reconstruction.
3:00 p.m. — Tom Bevel testified that the evidence led him to believe there was a struggle. Defense attorney Mark Daniel stated that there should be more DNA evidence from Staley found underneath Wilder’s fingernails if indeed there was a struggle.
2:55 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel pointed out that Tom Bevel did not mention the additional potential substances in his report, and Bevel agreed.
2:48 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel questioned Tom Bevel about a spot of some substance found near the U-shaped bloodstain found on the floor. Bevel testified that he cannot say with certainty whether or not the spot is blood.
2:41 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel questioned Tom Bevel about the U-shaped pattern of blood on the floor of the nursery where Wilder was found inside Staley’s home in October 2018.
2:30 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel pointed out that Tom Bevel referenced the wrong limb of Wilder when coming to the conclusions in his report. Daniel asked Bevel if he billed Wichita County for the hour spent reviewing the report, and he said he did.
2:22 p.m. — Tom Bevel testified that he made an addendum to his report concerning what appeared to be debris on Staley’s fingernails in a photograph taken the day Wilder was found deceased. He clarified that neither blood nor salsa can be ruled out as a potential source of the debris, but he said he cannot be clear about what the substance was because it was not collected at the scene to be analyzed.
2:17 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel and Tom Bevel begin discussing a revision put out by Bevel to his report. The revision involved Staley eating chips and salsa the night before Wilder was found deceased.
2:12 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel and Tom Bevel begin talking over each other loudly. Judge Everett Young stopped them, instructed them to speak one at a time, and instructed Bevel to answer the questions asked by Daniel. Cross-examination then continued with Daniel informing Bevel that he’d be using English to ask questions. Daniel asked if the misspellings and errors reflect positively or negatively on Bevel’s competence.
2:07 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel produces a copy of the book co-authored by Tom Bevel, pointing out a section in which the book spends nearly 50 pages discussing the importance of consulting with a forensic pathologist. Bevel testifies he did not speak with Dr. Stephen Hastings, who testified on Tuesday, March 7, and conducted Wilder’s autopsy.
2:02 p.m. — Tom Bevel points out a part of the report that defense attorney Mark Daniel misread, saying, “See, we all make mistakes.”
2:01 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel asked Tom Bevel whether or not he should speak with a forensic pathologist when compiling his report. Bevel testified that if it were important, he would speak with the pathologist.
1:55 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel continued to point out spelling and grammatical errors in Tom Bevel’s report. He continued to ask about the man tasked with reviewing the work and why errors were left in if the work was reviewed. Daniel references previous testimony in which Bevel said his report is reflective of his work.
1:48 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel began raising his voice while Tom Bevel was answering a question asked about a colleague reviewing his work. Daniel is apparently becoming more aggressive with Bevel. Daniel then begins to walk through Bevel’s report and point out every typo or grammatical error in his report.
1:45 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel asked Tom Bevel if he reviewed every piece of evidence on a hard drive given to him by Wichita County District Attorney John Gillespie. Bevel testifies he looked at them all but didn’t analyze anything in-depth that didn’t directly relate to the questions asked.
1:41 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel asked Tom Bevel if he reviewed the autopsy report, and Bevel testified that he did. Bevel then testified that his report was completed on May 4, 2021.
1:38 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel discussed with Tom Bevel whether it’s best practice to package items taken from a crime scene as evidence together or separately due to cross-contamination of genetic fluid, as he has done with several previous witnesses. Bevel agreed that packaging items together is not the ideal way to package evidence at a crime scene.
1:36 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel asked Tom Bevel about the search warrant that was executed at the crime scene eleven days after Wilder was found deceased. Daniel asked if it were possible that anyone could have altered the scene while it was unsecured over the course of those 11 days, and Bevel testified that it was possible.
1:33 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel asked Tom Bevel about the address listed as a billing address. Bevel testified that it is the home of his training coordinator. Daniel asks if the firm actually has a physical office. Bevel testified they do not, rather, the members of the firm office remotely or from home.
1:31 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel asked Tom Bevel whether or not his firm has its own laboratory. Bevel testifies that he does not, but uses the Norman Police Department’s lab in Norman, Oklahoma when needed.
1:30 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel asked Tom Bevel whether or not he works for a fee. Bevel testifies that he does, that fee is $295 per hour, and that all clients, whether those are individuals or government entities, are charged the same.
Prosecutor Lisa Tanner passes the witness to the defense team for cross-examination.
1:27 p.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel requests voir dire when Prosecutor Lisa Tanner offers Tom Bevel’s curriculum vitae into evidence. Daniel asks Bevel if criticisms of his work or national television appearances are included. Tanner objects, stating that the questions are great for cross-examination, but not for determining the admissibility of evidence. Judge Young sustains the objection.
1:25 p.m. — Tom Bevel testified that based on the blood on the pillow, the spread of the blood, and the apparent palm print on the top side of the pillow, he suggested his opinion is that a struggle occurred in the crib, and the victim was alive during part of the struggle. Bevel testified that his opinion is that the victim was removed from the crib after the struggle.
1:23 p.m. — Tom Bevel demonstrated for the court using a baby doll where he would expect bloodstains to appear different than they did. He dropped the doll from the rail of the crib, which has remained in the courtroom since it was brought in the first day. He said the impact would cause a bloodstain with spines spreading from the point of impact, which it did not.
1:18 p.m. — Tom Bevel explained to the jury the concept of staging, in which the crime scene is altered to appear in a way which it was not found. Bevel testified the purpose of staging is to misdirect the investigators. Bevel testified the physical evidence, in his opinion, suggests the child was moved from the crib and placed on the floor to give the appearance that Wilder fell out of the crib.
1:15 p.m. — Tom Bevel testified that if Wilder had fallen, Bevel would expect to have seen some smearing of the blood found on the floor, but none was found.
1:12 p.m. — Tom Bevel testified that, based on his knowledge and experience, the physical evidence provided to him is inconsistent with a fatal fall from the crib.
1:05 p.m. — Judge Everett Young recalls the jury. The testimony of Tom Bevel, crime scene reconstructionist, resumes testifying.
Judge Everett Young dismisses the jury, then the gallery. Testimony is set to resume at around 1:00 p.m. following a recess for lunch.
11:55 a.m. — Tom Bevel testified that the only injury that could have produced blood was found inside of Wilder’s mouth. A picture taken from the scene of Wilder’s death on October 11, 2018, shows blood running from Wilder’s mouth.
11:53 a.m. — Tom Bevel testified that since no blood was found on Wilder’s palm, the apparent palm print could not have come from Wilder.
11:51 a.m. — Tom Bevel testified that there appeared to be a bloodstain that resembled a palm print that was likely transferred from another blood source. Prosecutor Lisa Tanner brought up previous testimony from WFPD officers who also believed that area to be a palm print.
11:49 a.m. — Tom Bevel testified that blood found on the back or top side of the pillow suggests a high level of activity. Bevel testified that some bloodstain patterns suggested blood came out of Wilder’s mouth.
11:47 a.m. — Tom Bevel testified that the blood on the pillow was most likely spread on the pillow while Wilder was still alive.
11:44 a.m. — Tom Bevel testified that the number of locations where blood was found on the pillow in Wilder’s crib suggests movement. Bevel also testified that another U-shaped area of blood was found on the pillow that matched the one found on Wilder’s face and on the floor of the nursery.
11:41 a.m. — Tom Bevel testified one of the factors considered was the height of the crib, which is just over 3 feet tall, with a curved rail. He also said they considered the location where Wilder was supposed to have been found on October 11, 2018, where a U-shaped blood pattern was found. Bevel testified that they looked for blood transfers on the railing of the crib.
11:38 a.m. — Tom Bevel testified that the first question he asked regarding Wilder’s death was, “Is the physical evidence consistent with a child falling from the crib and that impact causing all injuries and bloodstains?”
11:36 a.m. — Tom Bevel testified that in science, there is no such thing as one hundred percent certainty, but they can use the information they can gather to reconstruct a crime scene by using the scientific method and a narrow scope of questions that can work toward coming to a conclusion about events that may have transpired at a given crime scene.
11:34 a.m. — Tom Bevel showed the jury several different patterns of blood stains and continued discussing the characteristics of blood that make it possible for an expert to analyze and come to conclusions about cases.
11:30 a.m. — Tom Bevel explained that blood tends to group up and often isn’t broken up unless something is acting on it. He also said bloodstain patterns are reproducible, and by acting in reverse, experts can determine what may have happened to cause the bloodstain, based on the blood’s physical characteristics.
11:26 a.m. — Tom Bevel explained the field of bloodstain pattern analysis to the jury and the unique characteristics of blood.
11:23 a.m. — Tom Bevel testified that he has come to some conclusions about the case of Wilder’s death and that a PowerPoint presentation was created to explain to the jury some of those conclusions.
11:22 a.m. — Tom Bevel testified that he was contacted to assist the Wichita Falls Police Department in the investigation into the death of Jason Wilder McDaniel. He testified he was given the case file and a “huge amount of information.” On April 20, 2021, Bevel visited Wichita Falls to view the physical evidence himself.
11:16 a.m. — Tom Bevel testified that he is published in the field of bloodstain pattern analysis and an introduction to crime scene reconstruction. They’re working on a fourth edition of that publication, as well as the first edition of a crime scene reconstruction textbook.
11:14 a.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner asked Bevel about his educational background in bloodstain pattern analysis and crime scene reconstruction.
11:12 a.m. — In a bit of comic relief from the witness stand, Tom Bevel apologized for having to clear his throat often, as his allergies are acting up. Prosecutor Lisa Tanner brings cough drops to Bevel, to which Judge Young replies, “Those cough drops will not be admitted as evidence.” The courtroom laughs.
11:10 a.m. — Tom Bevel is the president of Bevel, Gardener, and Associates. The consulting company was founded in 1996. Previously, he served 27 years as a member of the Oklahoma City Police Department.
Prosecutor Lisa Tanner calls Tom Bevel, crime scene reconstructionist and bloodstain pattern analyst, to the witness stand to testify.
11:05 a.m. — Judge Young returns to the bench outside of the presence of the jury. Judge Young rules that Tom Bevel is qualified as an expert witness on bloodstain pattern analysis and crime scene reconstruction. The Court also found that the field is valid and Bevel is qualified in that field. However, Judge Young ruled that Bevel is not qualified as an expert in the field of petechiae found during the autopsy of Wilder. So, Judge Young ruled to allow the witness to testify in all other fields as an expert. Prosecutor Lisa Tanner asks for Bevel to return to the stand. The jury is called back into the courtroom.
10:41 a.m. — Judge Everett Young dismisses the court to recess prior to his ruling in the Rule 705 hearing.
10:38 a.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner asked Tom Bevel if the opinions he intends to offer during his testimony are based on widely accepted science, and Bevel said yes. After Bevel is excused, Tanner argued that Bevel should be allowed to testify in this trial as an expert and that he’s never been excluded from testifying by a court before. Defense attorney Mark Daniel argued that Bevel is not qualified to offer expert testimony.
10:33 a.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel questions Tom Bevel aggressively, questioning whether or not the field of crime scene reconstruction is considered science. Daniel questioned Bevel as to whether there is a governing body over the field. Prosecutor Lisa Tanner objects to the line of questioning, but Judge Young allows Daniel to continue.
10:29 a.m. — A Rule 705 hearing was held outside of the presence of the jury to determine whether or not the testimony of Tom Bevel, a crime scene reconstructionist the State of Texas intends to call as a witness, will be admitted. Both the State, represented by Prosecutor Lisa Tanner, and Staley’s defense attorney Mark Daniel question Bevel to that end. A ruling will be determined by Judge Everett Young following questioning.
Judge Everett Young excuses the witness. Judge Everett Young dismisses the jury, then the gallery. Testimony is set to resume following a short recess.
9:58 a.m. — Ferriera is asked by Prosecutor Lisa Tanner if DNA analysis is opinion or not, and Ferriera testifies that it is more fact.
Defense attorney Mark Daniel passes the witness back to the State for further questioning.
9:56 a.m. — Ferriera again testified regarding the second DNA profile found underneath WIlder’s fingernails. She said it was a very low probability profile of 1 in 9, meaning for any nine people on earth, she would expect one person to match the profile found.
9:53 a.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel asked Courtney Ferriera if he were to walk up to the witness stand and scratch her in the face if she would expect to find a robust DNA profile of her DNA under his fingernails. She testified she would expect a robust profile.
9:48 a.m. — Ferriera testified that it would be possible for James Staley’s DNA to get under Wilder’s fingernails a number of ways, including if Staley were to perform CPR on the child.
9:45 a.m. — Ferriera testified that it would be possible for evidence packaged in the same container to transfer DNA from one item to another.
9:42 a.m. — Ferriera testified that it would not be surprising to find Staley’s DNA on the crib, pillow, and sheets because they were in his home.
9:39 a.m. — Ferriera testified that people leave genetic material wherever they go. She said it’s also possible for genetic material not to show up on every single surface touched by any given individual.
9:36 a.m. — Defense attorney Mark Daniel questions Ferriera on whether she would later her results after the fact in order to fit her results into a specific narrative. Ferriera testifies that she would stand by her results.
Prosecutor Lisa Tanner passes the witness to the defense team for cross-examination.
9:32 a.m. — Courtney Ferriera testified that the samples found underneath Wilder’s fingernails had a low statistical probability of containing DNA from James Staley, but that he could not be excluded as a possible DNA contributor.
9:20 a.m. — DNA experts continue to testify regarding the samples collected from evidence sent to the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences for analysis. Prosecutor Lisa Tanner called DNA expert Courtney Ferriera.
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.