WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT: Wilder McDaniel’s autopsy suggests homicidal death from smothering

Local News

WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — After an extensive autopsy report from Dallas County medical examiners, the report suggests the death of Wilder McDaniel, 2, is homicidal from asphyxiation though the cause of death is still undetermined at this time.

In a report received Thursday afternoon, medical examiners stated evidence at the scene with blood on McDaniel’s pillow suggests someone placed a pillow over the child’s mouth ultimately smothering him.

McDaniel’s body was found at the Wichita Falls home of James Staley on Irving Place on Oct. 11 2018.

The autopsy states McDaniel was placed in a crib with pillows and bedding on the night of his death, but the next morning he was found dead on the floor next to the crib.

The autopsy suggests the time of death for McDaniel was 11:34 a.m. on Oct. 11, 2018.

The findings of the autopsy reveal possible asphyxia and blunt force trauma from a previously healthy 2-year-old.

“The scene information is irregular and highly suspicious of a homicidal death,” the statement reads. “There is no explanation provided for how [McDanie] ended up on the floor and the apparently bloody items were still in the crib, or where the blood may have come from. [McDaniel] had no reported history of previously getting out of the crib and there were no fatal injuries present consistent with a fall from the crib to the floor having caused the death.”

Because of the blood and injuries to McDaniel’s body, the autopsy report states “it is possible that some of these injuries may have occurred during a struggle.”

Wichita County Precinct 1 Place 1 Justice of the Peace Janice Sons requested the autopsy.

To read the autopsy in full, click the PDF below.

McDaniel’s body was found at the Wichita Falls home of James Staley on Irving Place on Oct. 11 2018.

On Oct. 22, 2019, police officers 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, McDaniel’s parents, Amber and Bubba McDaniel, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Staley in Dallas County for more than $1 million.

In the lawsuit, Amber McDaniel 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, 2018Amber McDaniel said she woke up and realized her alarm didn’t go off then rushed to get McDaniel assuming they were late. She also added when she went toward his room, she noticed his door was open which was unusual and he wasn’t in his crib.

In June 2019, 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.

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