Trial date set for civil suit involving death of Wilder McDaniel

Local News

A trial date has been set for the civil suit surrounding the death of 2-year-old Jason Wilder McDaniel.

The lawsuit between Amber Odom, et al and James Staley, III is filed in the 134th Judicial District Court in Dallas County. The jury trial is set for June 22, 2020, at 9 a.m. The presiding judge will be Dale Tillery.

As KFDX reported, the cause and manner of Wilder’s death are both listed as undetermined by the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office. His body was found at Staley’s Wichita Falls home on Irving Place on October 11, 2018.

On October 22, police conducted a follow-up evidence search at the home of Staley, who has never been named a suspect or person of interest by law enforcement.

In April, Wilder’s parents, Odom and Bubba McDaniel, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Staley in Dallas County for more than $1 million.

In the lawsuit, Odom said she met Staley about a year after she and McDaniel split up. Odom said on Oct. 10, 2018, she took Wilder to daycare before she went to class then picked him up early before going to one of Staley’s rental properties.

There, Odom said she told Staley she would meet him at his house but said he told her he was going out for drinks.

Later that night, Odom said Staley called her and told her to come over with Wilder to stay the night.

When Odom was at Staley’s house, she said Staley entered the bathroom while she was bathing Wilder and Wilder became frightened by Staley’s presence and started crying. She said Staley then yelled at the toddler to quit crying.

Also in the lawsuit, Odom said she told Staley he was acting weird and then he didn’t speak to her for the rest of the night.

The next morning, Oct. 11, 2018, Odom said she woke up and realized her alarm didn’t go off then rushed to get Wilder assuming they were late. She also added when she went toward Wilder’s room she noticed his door was open which was unusual and he wasn’t in his crib.

When turning to see if Staley had Wilder, Odom said she saw Wilder lying on the ground and when she went to check on him she said she saw blood coming out of his mouth, blood on the floor and his skin was discolored.

According to the lawsuit, Odom said Staley had a tendency to lose control of his emotions, especially around Wilder. 

In the lawsuit, Odom said when she went to the living room to tell Staley that Wilder was not breathing and asked him to call 911, Staley “without a care in the world” tossed the phone right in front of her on the floor where she was sitting.

In the document, Odom and McDaniel said, “Based upon information and belief of Staley’s alleged violent and erratic behavior in Wilder’s presence and Staley’s lack of surprise or remorse when Wilder was found lifeless in his room, Plaintiffs believe Staley is solely responsible for the death of Wilder.”

However, the lawsuit stated Staley began to give CPR to Wilder but, when the paramedics arrived, he was pronounced dead.

The lawsuit states that based upon information and belief of Staley’s alleged violent and erratic behavior in Wilder’s presence and Staley’s lack of surprise or remorse when Wilder was found lifeless in his room, the plaintiffs believe Staley is solely responsible for the death of Wilder.

In June, Staley filed a response to the lawsuit, denying all allegations in the lawsuit.

He requested a jury trial and that it be moved from Dallas County to Wichita County because the law requires the suit to be heard in the county where the alleged events happened. No word on if that change of venue request has been approved or denied.

As of June 18, officials with the Wichita Falls Police Department said the criminal investigation into McDaniel’s death is still currently active and on-going.

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