Middle Tennessee Mysteries

Dickson County: Joe Clyde Daniels

Jul 29, 2019 at 01:00 pm by Michelle Willard

Joe Clyde Daniels

In the early morning hours of April 4, 2018, Joseph Ray Daniels told police his 5-year-old autistic son Joseph Clyde Daniels laughed about urinating on the floor. Daniels, who was known to have a hair-trigger temper, confessed to becoming so angry that he beat his son to death and hiding his body in the woods.

Krystal Daniels, the boy's mother, was the only witness to the events of April 4, 2018. She said she saw Daniels standing over Joe Clyde's motionless body before hearing her husband leave.

But Daniels has since recanted his confession and blamed his wife for having the boy kidnapped and hidden.

As of July 2019, the boy's remains still have not been located.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Dickson County Sheriff's Office at 615-789-4130.

The Missing Person

Born July 30, 2012, Joseph Clyde Daniels III (pictured above) was 5-years-old when his parents reported him missing from their home on Garners Creek Road in Dickson, Tennessee. Joe Clyde is autistic and non-verbal.

His family called him Joe or Baby Joe, but is most often referred to as Joe Clyde in media reports to differentiate him from his father Joseph "Joe" Ray Daniels.

At the time of his disappearance, he was 4'0" and weighed between 50 and 60 pounds, according to The Charley Project. Joe Clyde has blond hair and blue eyes. He was last seen wearing black pajamas with a picture of a skeleton on the front.

Joe Clyde has two siblings, one two years older and one two years younger.

The Disappearance

Around 6:30 Wednesday morning, April 4, 2018, Joe Clyde's father, Joe Daniels, called 911 to report his son missing.

Daniels told police he and his wife, Krystal, discovered Joe Clyde missing when she went in his room to wake him for school. They then searched their home and surrounding area for about an hour before calling police.

Initial investigators believed the boy had wandered outside in the middle of the night through an unlocked door because of the parents' statements. Also, police had been called to the home several times previously for reports of Joe Clyde wandering off.

The Search

Based on the statements from Joe and Krystal Daniels, as well as an independent witness authorities focused on searching the surrounding area for the boy. The witness reported seeing Joe Clyde standing around 1 a.m. April 4, 2018, next to roadway near the Daniels home at 1112 Garners Creek Rd.

Within a few days, more than 100 volunteers were combing the 2-mile radius around his home. In fact, the Dickson County Sheriff's Office said at the time that no more volunteers were needed. By then more than 250 people had come to the area to search for the boy.

Hope was briefly kindled when a footprint was found about three to four miles from the Daniels family home.

That hope was short-lived.

Members of the Dickson swift-water rescue team searched nearby ponds and at least one were even drained. An underwater drone was used to search a pond. A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation helicopter searched from above as two search dogs were also used to try to track Joe Clyde on the ground.

But neither dogs nor volunteers could find any trace.

As the mystery stretched into months, surrounding counties were searched for the boy's remains but official searches were suspended in October 2018.

The Suspects

Within a week, Joe Daniels, 30, had been charged with homicide and accused of beating his son to death.

Joe Daniels confessed to punching the 5-year-old boy in the upper torso, head and face until he died, according to his arrest report. Police said Joe Daniels then placed the body in the trunk of his car, driving it to "a remote area" and disposing of the body. Daniels was arrested on April 7, 2018, and was held on $1 million bond.

He is charged with first-degree murder, felony murder, aggravate child abuse, filing a false report and tampering with evidence.

News reports at the time described Joe Daniels as "quiet, calm and eccentric" with a short fuse that meant "violent outbursts (were) always just a moment away." A former schoolmate said the man, who worked at an IT after graduation, once threw a desk in class and would threaten to choke others when triggered.

On April 9, 2018, Just two days after her husband was arrested, Krystal Nicole Daniels, Joe Clyde's mother, was also taken into custody and charged with aggravated child neglect, criminal responsibility and filing a false report.

According to court documents, Krystal Daniels was in the home when Joe Daniels killed their son. "Krystal Daniels failed to report the injuries, abuse and/or homicide despite multiple opportunities. Krystal Daniels took active steps to obfuscate the abuse and homicide of Joe Clyde Daniels," the affidavit of her arrest said.

The two other children were placed with relatives. According to media reports, the family did not have an active case file with the Department of Children's Services.

The Confession

According to testimony given in court proceedings, Joe Daniels confessed to killing his son after he was woken up by one of his other children, who said Joe Clyde urinated on the floor.

"I then told them to get their (butts) in the bed. Baby Joe started laughing. So I beat him," Joe Daniels told police, adding that was when Joe Clyde ran outside and was seen by the witness.

"I ran out and got him back in the house. I beat him some more. That's when I killed Baby Joe," Joe Daniels said in his confession.

He told police he then placed the boy's body in the trunk of his car and drove about five miles away to McElhiney Road. Then he took the body from the trunk, carried Joe Clyde "over (his) right shoulder" and used Krystal's cell phone as a flash light to carry Joe Clyde into the woods.

Krystal Daniels told police she heard a scream and then silence before seeing Joe Daniels, fists clenched, standing over the motionless body of the boy. Joe Daniels then said "if I told anyone, he would kill me." She went into the bedroom and hid until she heard a car door close. She went back out to find Joe and Joe Clyde gone.

Investigators say the only consistent statement given by Joe Daniels is that he killed his son. The location of the body changes. Joe Daniels even helped in the search on McElhiney Road.

In July 2019, TBI announced a shovel had been discovered that had Joe Daniels' blood and an unidentified hair on it.

Other theories

Joe Daniels has since recanted his confession, laying blame on his wife and an unidentified man.

In a letter to his parents, Joe Daniels said he thinks Joe Clyde is still alive and Krystal is hiding the boy to frame him. He said Krystal called someone the night of the incident and "it's become more clear that he's clearly involved."

According to his theory, Krystal Daniels called another man to pick the boy up after she dressed him, packed a bag and left Joe Clyde on the side of the road.

"She's playing with fire, and she's going to get burned," he wrote.

Police said Joseph and Krystal Daniels had a troubled relationship and that Krystal had planned to leave in March 2018 because of physical abuse. She told police Joseph had body-slammed her.

In an interview in July 2019, Krystal Daniels said she hopes her son wandered away and was abducted.

"I don't want people to be looking for my son's remains. I want them to be looking for him," she said, adding Joe Daniels was never abusive, contradicting multiple previous statements.

Finally, one of the Daniels children said an unnamed person stabbed the boy with a knife.

Joseph and Krystal Daniels are currently awaiting trial, which is set for early 2020.

Photo of Joe Clyde Daniels is from the Justice for Joe Clyde Daniels Facebook page. Mug shots of Joe and Krystal Daniels are from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.