NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — After calling a press conference to claim new witnesses suggest Joe Clyde Daniels was abducted, after the District Attorney provided evidence otherwise, and after initially asserting that the evidence wasn't the same, Joseph Daniels' attorney said Thursday night that the child seen by store clerks and believed to be Joe Clyde Daniels on the morning of his abduction was not, in fact, Joe Clyde.
The announcement ends a day of back-and-forth claims over the disappearance of Joseph's son more than two years ago.
"I was raised to say you're wrong when you're wrong, so I now state the child seen in a store in Benton County was not Joe Clyde Daniels," Daniels' attorney Jake Lockert said in a statement.
It began with a 2 p.m. press conference introducing new witnesses in the case suggesting Joseph's son, Joe Clyde Daniels, was abducted and could still be alive. Jake Lockert says he made the announcement in a press briefing Thursday in Ashland City before even telling his client, the boy's father.
"I thought about it. I prayed about it. And I just decided I can't sit on this until trial; it could be next year with COVID-19," Lockert said.
The attorney suggested his son Joe Clyde was never killed by his father but was abducted.
Lockert said two convenience store employees in Camden saw who they confidently believed was Joe Clyde the morning he vanished from his Dickson County home in April 2018.
One of the ladies said she approached the boy who was wearing flat-toe cowboy boots, similar to what Joe Clyde had, who was accompanied by an older gentleman with salt-and-pepper hair and facial hair.
The woman claimed that they were in a bus converted into an RV or camper painted black and white with tags from either Massachusetts or Wisconsin. She had no idea that the boy could have been Baby Joe until she returned home and saw the Endangered Child Alert.
“She believes strongly it was Joe Clyde and she believes he was abducted,” Lockert said.
One of the witnesses from the convenience store reported the information to a Benton County Sheriff’s Department official who passed it onto the Dickson County Sheriff’s Office. There was also surveillance video that apparently captured the pair in the store but it was eventually recorded over when no one from law enforcement showed up, according to the Lockert.
“TBI and Dickson County never followed up with these ladies. They never came to them or never talked to them or asked for the video. My office was the first one to talk to them two year later,” Lockert added.
But District Attorney General Ray Crouch says the child the witnesses are referring to isn't Joe Clyde at all, providing images to NewsChannel 5 he says were are of the "unidentified child" at Casey's Market in Camden, Tennessee on April 4th 2018, the day of Joe Clyde's disappearance.
"Law enforcement agencies have invested thousands of hours in this case. The T.B.I. and the Dickson County Sheriff's Office have worked tirelessly and will continue to do so," Crouch said. "Unfortunately, law enforcement does not get enough credit for their efforts because investigative strategies and details are not broadcast to the public."
After the DA released these photos, Lockert initially remained adamant that the witness statements had not been fully investigated, telling reporter Nick Beres those photos aren't in the discover file, adding he's never seen that before, and that the boy in the photo doesn't match the description of the boy seen by the clerks.
But later in the evening, Lockert says he has an investigator forward the photos to one of the witnesses, and she verified that the child in the photos was the child she believed to be Joe Clyde Daniels.
"I wish I had been provided a report stating that photos had been collected from the store as well as being provided the photos from the store," Lockert said. "If I had been given a report and photos, I would have shown the photos to the witnesses and immediately verified that Joe Clyde Daniels was not in the Benton County."
"I apologize for any inconvenience," Lockert added.
Daniels has been charged with criminal homicide since his son’s disappearance more than two years ago. Prosecutors said he killed the boy even though a body has never been found.
Daniels gave a confession that he beat the boy to death after urinating in the home, which was later recanted because Lockert said it was false. Lockert said a witness driving near the home in the early morning hours and a neighbor’s surveillance video showed that Joe Clyde was never taken away to be buried, but was spotted near the property by himself.
The attorney said after combing through a large file of discovery from February, a lead sheet revealed there was an inquiry from Benton County but nothing more.
An official with the TBI and Dickson County Sheriff’s Office had no comment.
“As this remains an open and ongoing investigation, we can’t speak to specifics outside of what’s included in public records,” TBI spokesperson Susan Niland said in a statement.
Previous stories: Joe Clyde Daniels case
- Lawyers argue over admissibility of evidence in Joe Clyde case
- Prosecutors, defense agree to sever Daniels' cases into two trials
- Attorneys use taped interrogation in hearing to argue Joseph Daniels' confession was coerced
- Joseph Daniels' recanted confession played in court
- TBI serves search warrant in Joe Clyde Daniels case, searches brush around home
- Video evidence shows someone at Joe Clyde Daniels' home the night 5-year-old disappeared
- Krystal Daniels recants statement about what happened to son, Joe Clyde
- Jailhouse phone calls could be key to prosecution of Joe Clyde Daniels homicide case
- Letter from Joe Clyde's Father: "If we can get Krystal to confess...we can win this case."