As we take a look back at the top 10 stories of 2018, we turn to one of the most heartbreaking stories that took social media by storm.
Two months ago, Wilder McDaniel was found dead at a Wichita Falls home. Wilder was someone who his father, MMA fighter Bubba McDaniel, said would light up a room. And as Wichita Falls police continue to investigate his death, the autopsy results won’t be complete until possibly the week of Jan. 14.
On Oct. 11, Bubba McDaniel was in a truck with some co-workers when he received the call that stopped him in his tracks. The call was from a Wichita Falls police officer and after McDaniel asked the officer if his son, two-year-old Wilder McDaniel, had died, the response was devastating. After he got the call, all he said he could think was “this can’t be real. This can’t be happening.”
“As soon as he started speaking again it was ‘yes sir, he is.’ at that point, I was kind of like ‘no, he didn’t just say, yes, did he?’ so, I screamed at him, I said ‘are you [explicative] kidding me? He said ‘no sir, I’m not,” McDaniel said. “Anything to do with him that I remembered and the body that I could feel warm against me and things like that. I was never able to touch again and I wanted to die,” McDaniel said.
For McDaniel, the sense of loss was hard to explain, as was the pain.
“Even though I’ve been able to touch him. Touch his body and sit with him and kiss his head and everything. To know he’s not going to walk around the corner to run into me. For me to pick up and hug is a feeling I fight every day,” McDaniel said.
After the death of Wilder, police conducted a follow- up evidence search on Oct. 22 at the home of James Staley. While Wichita Falls police officers were executing the warrant, a man was seen coming out of the home with his hands in the air. Authorities did not confirm the man was Staley and no one was in custody. Five days later Bubba McDaniel was booked into the Wichita County jail for making terroristic threats on social media to kill a man he believes is responsible for the death of his son, something he regrets.
“I just know I went about a situation that I shouldn’t went about the way I did,” McDaniel said.
On November 5th many people gathered to honor Wilder before the football games at the Boys and Girls Club. Most of the crowd were wearing shirts with Wilder’s name on them, decals were put on the player’s football helmets and after a moment of silence, they released balloons. At first, organizers thought this event wouldn’t have much participation but because of word of mouth, it grew.
“It started as a little event. I mentioned to a couple coaches and all of a sudden it spread like wildfire. It’s such a wonderful thing to see the community put aside their differences and come together in support of such a great cause,” Richardson said.
The last time McDaniel was with his son was unbelievably special but he had no idea just how much.
“We slept on the couch that night and I remember rolling him off. And in the middle of the night he jumped up and grabbed my arm and he held onto my arm and then he eventually ended up on my chest again. Sometimes he just stays on my arm, it’s almost like, I don’t know, like something somewhere else was telling us that we needed that extra big hug for the night,” McDaniel said. “I hugged him bye and we gave each other a few more kisses and just love you so much. But I usually go in and help put him in his car seat things like that but I kind of let him get in himself that time and I gave him a kiss bye. It was one of those last that I didn’t know I wouldn’t get to do.”
Read our other Top Stories of 2018: