The mother of 2-year-old murder victim Jason “Wilder” McDaniel turned herself in Thursday morning to face felony charges.
Amber Nichole McDaniel is charged with tampering with/or fabricating physical evidence and abandoning/endangering a child, according to allegations in court records.
Amber was being held Thursday in Wichita County Jail on $60,000 in bonds, according to online jail records.
Wilder was found unresponsive the morning of Oct. 11, 2018, by Amber while she and Wilder were staying at the Wichita Falls home of James Irven Staley, who Amber was seeing at the time, according to allegations in court records.
Staley has been charged with murder in connection with Wilder’s death.
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Wichita County law-enforcement authorities suspect Wilder was smothered with a pillow the night of Oct. 10 in Staley’s home in the 2000 block of Irving Place, according to allegations in court records and an autopsy report.
Arrest affidavits gave this account of the allegations against Amber:
About 9:14 a.m. Oct. 11, 2018, first responders including police and AMR ambulance were dispatched to Staley’s home in the 2000 block of Irving Place.
Information from dispatch indicated a woman was screaming something about her baby
Both Staley and Amber admitted to police that they drank large amounts of alcohol the night of Oct. 10, 2018, leading to lapses in memory.
Amber posted on Facebook around 1 a.m. Oct. 11, 2018, but she told police she did not remember it.
During the child’s autopsy, the coroner found signs of blunt force trauma to the child’s head, abrasions and other signs of a possible struggle.
The coroner ruled the death “undetermined,” but stated the scene was “irregular and highly suspicious of a homicidal death.”
Law enforcement officers believe Staley killed the child while Amber was drunk and asleep in the other room.
She is accused of endangering a child by knowingly placing Wilder in a situation where he could be harmed. Amber had primary care and custody of Wilder.
She told police she began dating Staley in the summer of 2018 and by August 2018, was spending nights at his housed, and she would bring Wilder.
After the arrest of James Staley for the murder of Wilder, law enforcement retrieved his phone to gather evidence.
They were recently able to “crack” the phone in order to look at texts and messages. Detectives found a large number of texts and Facebook messages between Staley and Amber.
Through the course of the investigation, it was found that from August 2018 until Wilder’s death in October 2018, Staley spewed an onslaught of hatred, violence and threats to Amber about Wilder.
Amber allegedly ignored the increasingly violent threats and continued to bring Wilder around Staley.
Amber admitted Staley’s violent behavior toward her son began as early as August 2018.
She recalled going to dinner at Staley’s house with Wilder where Staley got angry with the child and asked them to leave. After she and Wilder left, Staley began a stream of angry texts to her.
After Wilder’s death, Amber was told there would be an investigation into the death.
She told police her phone had been reset at some time but said there were pictures on the phone of bruises on Wilder.
On Oct. 12, 2018, detectives interviewed Amber and her attorney was present.
They told her information on her phone was important to the investigation and to send them any texts, messages or screenshots of conversations between herself and Staley.
Amber’s attorney asked her if she had deleted any messages and Amber said she thought she had but was not sure.
Amber’s phone was taken into evidence by detectives Oct. 22.
Also on Oct. 22, 2018, Staley’s cell phone was taken into evidence. His cell phone could not be broken into until the spring of 2018.
Once they were in, investigators found multiple deleted or altered message on his phone.
A forensic analysis of the phone found multiple messages between Amber and Staley from July 2018 through Oct. 10, 2018 – the day before Wilder’s death.
The messages show an escalating level of abuse and violence from Staley toward Wilder. The messages show Staley admits to abusing the child.
Staley calls Wilder dozens of “dehumanizing” names, said he wished to be rid of Wilder and hoped the child would die of SIDS.
Although she had multiple conversations with investigators, Amber never revealed these conversations between herself and Staley until she was confronted with the messages July 2, 2021.
Amber admitted that she deleted these messages off her phone after the murder even though she knew they were important to the investigation.
Amber said she did a factory reset of her phone Sept. 27, 2018.
From that date until Oct. 11, 2018, there were still multiple messages between Staley and Amber detailing Staley’s ill will toward Wilder.
While these messages were found on Staley’s phone, none could be found on Amber’s, and she admits to deleting them.
In an exchange Oct. 1, 2018, just 10 days before Wilder’s death, Staley asks Amber to give Wilder melatonin drops to make him sleep.
Amber is hesitant because she had already given him allergy medicine.
Staley said, “Only the good die young. That f***er is living forever.” To which Amber responds, “LMAO stop.”
Later in the same exchange, Amber said Wilder did not have a very good father, to which Staley said, “Maybe he will get SIDS.”
Amber responded, “Don’t say that. That’s horrible and asking for bad karma.”
On the night of the murder, Oct. 10, 2018, Staley texted Amber and said if Wilder cried that night that he would “beat him.”
Amber never told law enforcement about the messages, which are powerful evidence showing Staley’s intentions toward Wilder, and she deleted them from her phone.
The messages do not show any abusive or violent action on Amber’s part, the report states.
But they do show she “looked the other way” concerning Staley’s abuse of the child and delayed the investigation into Staley by attempted to hide evidence that would be useful in the case.
Withholding this evidence and deleting the messages resulted in the felony charge of tampering/fabricating evidence.”
According to online jail records, Staley was free Thursday from Wichita County Jail on $1.2 million in bonds for murder charges.
He has pleaded not guilty, court documents show.
A pre-trial hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 12 for Staley.
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