WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — More than four years after the tragic death of 2-year-old Jason Wilder McDaniel, the trial of the man accused of his murder is set to get underway soon in Tarrant County.
On Monday, February 13, 2023, the Wichita County Commissioners approved a consent agenda item during their regularly scheduled meeting for Judge Jim Johnson to sign an agreement with the Residence Inn in Fort Worth to reserve a courtesy block of rooms for the Wichita County District Attorneys office to utilize in the coming weeks.
The item is just one of the costs the county is planning to incur during the trial of James Irvin Staley, III, 40, of Okmulgee, Oklahoma, accused of the 2018 murder of McDaniel.
“The budget is fine, the 2023 budget was approved with the knowledge that we would have this trial coming up, and maybe even a couple of others down the road, so budget-wise, we’re fine, we can handle the cost,” Judge Johnson said. “We do know it’s going to be significant and something we’ll have to absorb.”
County officials are preparing for the trial to get underway on Wednesday, February 22, when Tarrant County Judge Everett Young will assemble a pool of about 80 men and women from Tarrant County to begin the process of selecting a jury.
The voir dire proceedings will begin on Thursday, February 23, marking the beginning of the long-awaited trial of Staley for McDaniel’s death.
Since the trial was moved to Tarrant County in August 2022, many pre-trial hearings have been held, including one in January 2023 after Staley’s defense team of attorneys Mark Daniel and Terri Moore filed a motion to suppress a search warrant that was executed at Staley’s home about a week after McDaniel was found deceased.
Judge Young denied the motion, meaning everything seized as evidence during the execution of that search warrant can be admitted during Staley’s trial.
Staley was also arraigned outside of a jury’s presence in January, where he again entered a plea of “not guilty”.
Staley is facing charges of capital murder and felony murder related to the death of McDaniel, whose cause of death was ruled undetermined in an autopsy, but was later called “highly suspicious” and likely homicidal by a Dallas County medical examiner.
In a hearing held on Thursday, February 9, 2023, final preparations were made for a questionnaire that will be distributed to all potential jurors ahead of voir dire proceedings.
During this hearing, it was announced Wilder’s mother, Amber McDaniel, will testify in Staley’s trial. Officials said there is no plea offer or deal on the table to address Amber McDaniel’s charges of abandoning or endangering a child or tampering with evidence in connection to Wilder’s death, but officials said they anticipate she will be cooperative.
Testimony is set to begin on Monday, February 27, 2023, two days after what would’ve been Wilder McDaniel’s seventh birthday.
This is a developing story. For the latest on the trial of James Staley, accused of the murder of 2-year-old Wilder McDaniel, stick with Texoma’s Homepage for updates.