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A desperate 911 call leads police to the home of a wealthy man and his live-in girlfriend. What they find is one of the most tragic scenes officers encounter, the death of a child. The adults maintain the death is a terrible accident, but investigators suspect something far worse. Chief Investigator Tye doggedly follows the trail of evidence until he’s finally able to get Justice for Wilder.

Guest detective: Chief Investigator Tye

Read Transcript

Yeardley: [00:00:06] Hey, Small Town Fam. It’s Yeardley. How are you guys? I am so glad you’re here. So, I’m going to cut to the chase. The episode today is about evil. I don’t use that word lightly. I think it’s often overused and because of that it’s lost a lot of its potency. But I think that you’ll agree that the offender in this case embodies the depravity of everything that word conjures up as he inflicts pain and ultimately death on a two-year-old. Yes, this is a child abuse case and it’s a tough one. So, here’s what I’m going to do. There are three places in this episode where our guest, Chief Investigator Ty, describes what the suspect did to the young victim, whose name is Wilder.

[00:00:57] For those of you who are inclined to skip this episode altogether, I promise that when we get to those spots, I will break into the episode and warn you to fast forward a couple of minutes until we’re on the other side of those descriptions. So, you can still hear how law enforcement never let up in getting justice for Wilder. I’ve said this before on this podcast. The reason we tell these stories, as gut wrenching as they are, is because they are a huge part of being a first responder. Whether you’re in law enforcement, fire, or emergency medical is just the way it is. And honestly, I don’t think any of us who don’t do those jobs can fully appreciate how often little children are put in peril or killed by people they usually know and trust.

[00:01:49] It is why I take some solace in knowing that thanks to the likes of Dan, Dave, Paul, and Chief Investigator Ty, that these little victims will never be forgotten. Here is justice for Wilder.


[00:02:09] Hi there. I’m Yeardley. 

Dan: [00:02:10] I’m Dan.

Dave: [00:02:11] I’m Dave.

Paul: [00:02:12] And I’m Paul.

Yeardley: [00:02:13] And this is Small Town Dicks.

Dan: [00:02:16] Dave and I are identical twins. 

Dave: [00:02:17] And retired detectives from Small Town, USA.

Paul: [00:02:19] And I’m a veteran cold case investigator who helped catch the Golden State Killer using a revolutionary DNA tool.

[Small Town Dicks theme]

Dan: [00:02:25] Between the three of us, we’ve investigated thousands of crimes, from petty theft to sexual assault, child abuse to murder.

Dave: [00:02:33] Each case we cover is told by the detective who investigated it, offering a rare personal account of how they solved the crime.

Paul: [00:02:40] Names, places, and certain details have been changed to protect the privacy of victims and their families.

Dan: [00:02:44] And although we’re aware that some of our listeners may be familiar with these cases, we ask you to please join us in continuing to protect the true identities of those involved out of respect for what they’ve been through.

[unison]: [00:02:55] Thank you.

Yeardley: [00:03:05] Today, on small town Dicks I hope you’re ready, listeners. We have the usual suspects. We have Detective Dan.

Dan: [00:03:12] Hello, everyone. 

Yeardley: [00:03:14] Hello. We have Detective Dave.

Dave: [00:03:18] Hello. 

Yeardley: [00:03:20] [laughs] I was hoping if I sang to you, I might get a little more out of you. And we have the one and only Paul Holes. 

Paul: [00:03:27] Hey, hey.


Dan: [00:03:30] Like death and taxes. Hey, hey.

In Unison: Hey, hey.

Yeardley: [00:03:33] With the hey, hey. [Paul laughs] he’s so reliable. I love that about him. [Paul laughs] And Small Town Fam, you are going to be so happy. We have a great new guest today, Chief Investigator, Ty.

Ty: [00:03:45] Hello.

Yeardley: [00:03:46] Hello. Thank you so much for giving us one of your precious days off. We’re always so grateful. 

Ty: [00:03:51] Thanks for having me. 

Yeardley: [00:03:54] So Ty, I think our listeners would love to know how you ended up on our podcast today. You have a direct link.

Ty: [00:04:03] Yes, yes. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet Paul previously to this. My boss is the county elected DA, John Gillespie, and he was at a conference and at the conference they were speaking, Paul, help me out with that. That was the DA from-

Paul: [00:04:18] -Sacramento, Anne Marie Schubert.

Ty: [00:04:20] Yes, Ms. Schubert was speaking, Anne Marie Schubert was speaking and talking about the DNA triangulation solving crimes. Well, my boss came back from that and talked to us and we reached out to Anne Schubert who gave me Paul’s information. I reached out to Paul and Paul has been gracious enough to come to our county and work with us on some cold cases and during that time Paul and I got to visit and it leads to this. 

Yeardley: [00:04:46] That’s fantastic. It’s such a small world. But also, I don’t think you could have anybody better to help you with those cold cases than Paul Holes.

Ty: [00:04:54] Oh, fantastic. He’s really, I think he’s knocked a couple of them off center for us and I think you have some results to show for that [crosstalk].


Paul: [00:05:00] That’s an interesting way of putting it.

Yeardley: [00:05:02] That sounds like Paul a little off center.

Paul: [00:05:04] I have to say, going out there, the chief was so gracious and what an amazing team you have and that you are leading out there. So, it was a great time and hopefully we’ll see some advancements on those cases.

Ty: [00:05:18] Hopefully. Yes, sir.

Yeardley: [00:05:20] Wonderful. So, Dave and I know you like to kick things off with this question.

Dave: [00:05:26] Yeah, I’m just curious. Ty, could you walk us through your background, the thumbnail sketch of your bio and maybe describe your jurisdiction and some special assignments that you’ve gotten into and then in the end tell us what you do when you’re not carrying a badge and handcuffs and a gun.

Ty: [00:05:43] Yeah, sure, I’d love to. Back in the mid 90s, I worked for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the prison system here for a few years. In 2003, I started working for the local police department. And so, when I went to the PD, they had a flourish of gang crimes that had appeared and they created a gang unit and I started working there for the PD and the FBI came in to assist with that. So back in 2007, I started as a task force officer for the FBI and worked with them and that developed into working in narcotics. From there, spent most of my time in special ops in the gangs, the Narcs, Tac unit, SWAT for about 10 years.

[00:06:21] In 2020, I was approached by DA John Gillespie to come over and work at the DA’s office, and he hired me as his Chief Investigator and been there since 2020.

Yeardley: [00:06:33] That is an impressive resume. All right, so, Ty, please tell us how this case came to you. 

Ty: [00:06:41] So, when this case happened, I was actually employed at the agency, which it came to, the Wichita Falls Police Department, and I was working with them. And I heard of this case, but I didn’t have anything to do with it at that time. Once I went to the DA’s office, COVID had happened. I started in January of 2020. We had just finished a capital murder the week before government shutdown, a total shutdown. There wasn’t anything happening. It was a very odd time. So, in that time, there was a lot of interest in this case that ginned up with social media. When you go back to COVID, everything shut down. People seemed to take to social media a whole lot. People were saying, “The police aren’t doing anything. Nothing’s being done. They think they know who’s done this, the bad guys out there.”

[00:07:26] So, you start seeing Facebook posts saying, justice for Wilder. And so, my boss said, “We have this downtime, let’s get a hold of the police department and let’s have them give us a copy of the case and let’s start going through it to see if fresh eyes see new things.” That’s when we started looking into the death of Wilder McDaniel.

Yeardley: [00:07:46] And so, describe the crime to us. What is justice for Wilder? 

Ty: [00:07:51] So, Thursday, October 11, 2018, 911 receives a call from a very distraught female. She’s screaming and pleading with the dispatcher, “Please, my baby is dead.” She struggles to give the address. She gives an address to the residence of where she’s at. The ambulance and the police arrive on scene just minutes later. The house is like a 4300 square foot house. It’s located near a large university in our town. And it’s a very nice, quiet neighborhood known as the Country Club. And it’s just not where you have these types of crimes that occur often. And that really grabbed people’s attention. When the ambulance gets there just before the police, they find an inconsolable 28-year-old female sitting on the porch. Her name is Amber. She’s holding a two-year-old blonde-haired boy.

[00:08:39] He’s wearing a yellow T-shirt and green Ninja Turtle pajama bottoms. She has his head pressed into her left shoulder. His feet are dangling to the right of the hip. And you can look when you look at the child, his face is white with a blue tint. There was dried blood on his lips and his right cheek and his right arm was pointed out due to the rigor that had set in. It was an unnatural position. So having her out on the front porch, they usher inside and try to console her. Once inside the residence, Amber is so distraught, she sits down and holds her child. She has blood on her left shoulder that’s in a horseshoe shape from the shirt when she was caressing the child when the police got there. 

[00:09:25] The horseshoe shape is also evident on the floor where they had blood flow, where Wilder was found below the crib. And once they get inside with the detectives, that’s when they encounter the 35-year-old boyfriend, James Staley. Amber gives an abbreviated account of what happened the best that she can. Amber said she was in the bedroom and did not hear her alarm go off that was on her phone. Amber jumps out of bed and is walking down the hallway. 

Yeardley: [00:09:51] If Amber missed her alarm, did she jump out of bed because she realized she’d woken up late?

Ty: [00:09:56] That’s right. And just before she gets to the bedroom where the child was at, she sees sunlight through the cracked door that’s into the hallway where she’s walking. So, she turns to go into the bedroom and when she opens up the bedroom door just below the crib, Amber sees her child laying on the floor. Amber told me at first, she didn’t recognize the child to be dead. Then she went to go get the child up off the floor. As soon as she got to the child, he was stiff, cold. Amber immediately starts screaming and picks up Wilder. She runs to the opposite end of the house, where James is on a couch, asleep. From her screaming. James jumps up. Amber asks James to call 911 and Amber recounts that he’s just standing there not doing anything. Amber screams to James again to call 911. He gets his phone, calls 911, and then pitches the phone to Amber.

Yeardley: [00:10:47] He throws the phone at Amber? 

Ty: [00:10:50] Yes. Amber gets on and that’s when 911 picks up. You can hear the beginning of the 911 call. “James, stop.” And it is learned from the interview that was when James was about to assist by giving CPR to Wilder. And according to Amber, there were only very limited amount of compressions that he had performed when she was telling him stop, because Amber already believed the child was dead, which he was. 

Yeardley: [00:11:18] And when you get this case file from the local PD, what’s in it?

Ty: [00:11:25] There was the case report and then all the evidence is stored over there. And so, I wanted the case report so we could break down who had seen what, what was said and just really peruse the case carefully and compare statements and that sort of thing. Also, with that, they had cell phones that they had seized along the way. And I wanted to look into a glimpse, pull back that curtain. I had a lot of interest in seeing what was on the cell phones.

Yeardley: [00:11:50] And why is that? Did you have a tip that there was information being passed back and forth in text messages or is it that just what we do now in the age of technology, we always go through the cell phone?

Ty: [00:12:03] I think in my background of narcotics and doing investigations and trying to find the links in the relationship, doing deep dives on cell phones during investigation is just natural to me. I want to see what they’re doing and what they’re saying when they don’t think anybody’s looking. Everybody presents to the public one way, and then there’s those that are closer to them they’ll present in a different way, maybe a more relaxed way. And then there might be another level there that no one knows about, but maybe it’s in their web browser history, their photos, their alone time or maybe with someone else it kind of gets deeper and deeper and deeper. And then even into their text to some of those folks, you can really see how they think, organize their thoughts, or what disrespects them or what motivates them.

[00:12:51] So, after Amber gives her abbreviated account, one of the responding officers goes to the bedroom to where water was found on the floor, and sees a small amount of blood flow on the floor in front of the crib. And that officer speaks briefly with James. His recount to that officer was that during the evening hours of October 10th of 2018, Wilder was put to bed by Amber. James told officers that Wilder was crying a little bit before midnight, so James went to go check on Wilder and James said that he went to bed sometime around 02:00 or 03:00 in the morning. Wilder was located on the floor near the crib in the nursery by Amber. And then James said that Wilder had fallen out of the crib. We did follow that back and there was a comment by when Amber found Wilder.

[00:13:40] She says, “Wilder must have fell out of the crib.” And James echoes that, it was a nicer crib than what I’ve seen in most homes. The front of the crib measured about 3ft in height with the mattress being a little bit elevated off the floor. Inside the crib, there was the mattress, and it was wrapped in a pink sheet. On the mattress, there was a blue blanket, a somewhat large stuffed animal, and a pillow. Those items were seized, taken to be examined. Upon looking at them, they noticed that there was blood on the pillow and a little bit of blood on the sheets. 

Dave: [00:14:15] Ty, you mentioned that Amber’s wearing a T shirt, and she’s got Wilder up to her left shoulder with Wilder’s legs going off her right hip, and that they found kind of a semicircular bloodstain on her shirt from holding Wilder. Blood dries very quickly and for there to actually be a bloodstain on her shirt when Wilder’s in full rigor or beginning rigor, blood does not continue flowing.

Ty: [00:14:46] Yeah. On Wilder’s cheek, there was a horseshoe shaped, dried blood and on Amber’s shirt, it matched that horseshoe shape. And then inside the room that had the crib on the floor was a horseshoe shape. And you could see the flow, how there was more buildup of the blood and how it flowed from that position before it had dried. Like, there was a very distinctive horseshoe print of blood on the floor that matched Wilder’s cheek, which then would’ve been transferred to Amber’s left shoulder. And so later we’ll find out that horseshoe print was also on the pillow that was inside the crib, so that becomes important.

Yeardley: [00:15:27] All the detectives are nodding knowingly. [Paul laughs]

Dave: [00:15:31] Wilder didn’t fall out of the crib.

Paul: [00:15:50] I think I’m going to state the obvious here, but this is sequencing information. This is how by taking a look at the blood patterns at the scene, you have the final resting position of Wilder on the floor, and there’s blood on the carpet where Wilder was laying. Now, if this was this crib escape scenario and a bleeding injury resulted from Wilder falling out of the crib, there should be no blood inside the crib. The fact that you have blood in multiple locations on the objects inside this crib indicates a bleeding injury occurred prior to Wilder being on the floor. So, this is sequencing information and it’s absolutely critical as part of the reconstruction of what happened.

Ty: [00:16:32] Yes, absolutely. So, while they’re at the house, James does sign a consent to search for the residence. The detective that led this case arrives on scene and he’s reading the form to James. And in the form, it talks about, during a criminal proceeding something could be used against you. And James says, “What do you mean, a criminal proceeding?” And the detective explains– and at that time, according to the detective, James genuinely cries, becomes very emotional about the criminal proceeding that’s mentioned in the consent search.

Yeardley: [00:17:04] Ty, is James Staley Wilder’s biological father?

Ty: [00:17:08] No, he is not. Staley and Amber had just recently met. This whole relationship that is best I could count by going through the phone. Staley made a contact for Amber Odom, like, July 26th. And here we are at the death of a child. October 11th. We’re like 78 days. 

Dave: [00:17:28] It is not shocking to any of us, how this happens. 

Yeardley: [00:17:33] It’s a recurring theme, it seems, in these terrible tragedies that oftentimes there’s a very fast trajectory from meeting to moving in. And then usually if the male is not the biological father of any of the children, and yet they become the disciplinarian. It just seems to be this trend that you all speak about often.

Dave: [00:18:01] And to be clear, this is James Staley’s house where this emergency occurs. 

Ty: [00:18:05] Yes. 

Dave: [00:18:06] And so Amber was invited to move in with her child. In the grand scheme of things, this is pretty accelerated movement on a relationship.

Ty: [00:18:14] Yeah. Amber is a single mother, with a child, living at her parent’s house and bartending.

Yeardley: [00:18:25] And how old is she roughly? 

Ty: [00:18:27] She was 28 years old. 

Yeardley: [00:18:29] Okay. And how old is James Staley? 

Ty: [00:18:32] James Staley is 35 and he’s an oil and gas guy. The large university that I’d mentioned earlier, his family has buildings that they have had erected to him on the university, trust fund, that sort of thing. So, the lure of a struggling single mother living at home with the parents, and then you got this guy that walks in, decent looking, flaunt what he has, it was the draw. It’s the dangling carrot.

Dave: [00:19:01] And probably the stability that she’s looking for. 

Ty: [00:19:04] Oh, yeah. He’s a master at recognizing that and playing on that.

Dave: [00:19:10] You mentioned the general disposition of James Staley at the moment, that mom is having a freak out and begging someone to call 911, that he complies. But tosses her the phone like, “This is your deal. Why don’t you deal with it? Like, I got better things to do.” That sort of flippant attitude towards what’s clearly a dire emergency is a huge red flag for, I’m sure, the police, I’m guessing for Amber as well. Somewhere in the back of her mind, like, “Why isn’t he freaking out?” So, the atmosphere at that scene is exactly how you describe chaos but investigators are really good at reading body language.

Ty: [00:19:56] Yeah. And it wasn’t missed that James was at the opposite end of the house sleeping on a couch when he had a guest room. He wasn’t in bed with Amber at all that night. And the fact that he’s at the other end of a 4300 square foot house is somewhat telling to me as well.

Dave: [00:20:09] Get me as far away from that kid as possible. 

Ty: [00:20:12] [laughs] Yeah, yeah that’s exactly right. And so, the police go inside the kitchen, and they’re inside the trash nearby. There’re multiple ice cream sandwich wrappers and a couple of bottles of wine. The thing about the wrappers was that when police got to the house, James was in a really white sweatshirt hoodie with the pockets in the front, and he was able to hide his hands quite a bit. And one of the officers brings attention. Like, I think he’s got something on his hands. It was like a brown substance, reddish brown substance. You could see it in his nails and such when he would occasionally bring his hands out. And so, when the officer said something about that, the crime scene technician came over and said, no, he had ice cream sandwiches. That’s what’s on his hands.

Yeardley: [00:20:59] James had ice cream sandwiches on his hands is what we think.

Ty: [00:21:03] That’s what the crime scene tech said. Because she had spoken with the detective because she was with the detective when they looked into the trash can. So, she takes pictures, has him bring his hands out and takes pictures of his hands, but never tested the hands for blood. 

Yeardley: [00:21:16] Ah.

Ty: [00:21:17] Yeah. Just a missed opportunity. You were like, those you like to have back. But later, once we got the case over the DA’s office, I was just going through the photos, and I’m seeing loose skin off of his hand, on some of his fingers. They look like fresh skin tears. And I’m thinking, you know, that’s what a little hand would do to you. 

Yeardley: [00:21:37] Like maybe Wilder scratched James on his hands. 

Ty: [00:21:40] Exactly. So back to what you were saying about how James is acting. One of the things that stood out to the officers and the ambulance attendant, no words were really spoken between Amber and James. While the police are there doing a consent to search, he’s not near her, he’s not consoling her. He’s actually standing away off to the side. So, the thing that stood out is he didn’t console her as you might think a boyfriend would. At one point, he’s talking to one of the sergeants on scene and Staley goes over and starts dry heaving. Doesn’t ever throw up, but just starts dry heaving and the sergeant in that case makes note of that in his report. As officers are still searching, Staley makes his way into a huge walk-in closet.

[00:22:24] The detective shows up on scene and goes into the walk-in closet to interview James. And the detective thinks, “You know what? I have an app on my phone. I’ll record this conversation on the app on my phone, and then records it to his phone.” As he walks into the closet, Staley is on the floor with his head between his knees, and there’s a pocket knife opened up on the floor near, like, little staging. According to the detective, Staley’s acting like he’s crying, like he’s wiping tears that aren’t there, going through the emotions. In that time, the detective recalled that Staley said he hadn’t been on his mood stabilizers for two to three days. James says he had never seen Wilder after Amber put him to bed, Amber shut the door, but Wilder was fine when Staley said he checked on him. 

[00:23:11] The detective asked, “What do you mean by checked on?” James says, “Well, when I say checked on, I meant that I walked past his door as I was walking down the hallway.”

Yeardley: [00:23:24] Is the door open? 

Ty: [00:23:25] No. 

Yeardley: [00:23:26] Well, [laughs] that’s not checking on somebody. 

Dave: [00:23:29] I think plausibly what he’s going to say is, “I didn’t hear Wilder crying or anything, so I assumed he was okay.”

Ty: [00:23:36] Yeah, I think James caught himself slipping up and was just trying to cover it up at that point. James said that he didn’t go to bed till 02:00 or 03:00 and that he was asleep on the couch when he awoke to Amber screaming about her baby. So, later that night, the detective goes home, plugs his phone in, and Apple sends an update. This recording is never to be recovered.

Yeardley: [00:23:58] But Apple sending an update shouldn’t erase the recording. That’s so weird and so unbelievably frustrating. 

Ty: [00:24:06] Yeah, we just don’t have it. Wish it all you want. We just don’t have James Staley’s words anymore. So, that concludes what’s going on at the house and it’s been a couple hours since everything has taken place. Amber doesn’t want to be with her family. She wants the police to give her right up to the station to give a statement. James Staley volunteers to go to the station and his mom drives him up there. The police take Amber inside of the interview room and start talking with her. Meanwhile, Staley’s at the station waiting to speak with police because it’s in the country club. He has a friend who’s an attorney that drives up to the police station, talks to the sergeant, and the sergeant comes back and lets the attorney talk to James Staley. 

[00:24:48] And at which time the attorney comes out and says, “James will not be giving any statement to the police today.” And Staley, his mom, and the attorney walk out, never available again for any interviewer, never makes himself available at all to find out what killed this two-year-old child.

Yeardley: [00:25:06] What about Amber? Does Staley provide an attorney for Amber? 

Ty: [00:25:10] No. Amber comes up and gives an interview. And she shows up, she’s very distraught. She appears in shock. She’s actually carrying a towel with her. And occasionally during the question she just puts her head in the towel. She cries and then she comes back and gathers herself and then she answers the detective’s questions. The detective gets more detailed information of the events leading up to the discovery of the child. Amber stated that the night before that she and James had planned a romantic evening. Amber gives Wilder a bath inside the master bedroom. She cleans him off. Staley walks in with the glass of wine. Wilder sees James Staley and says, “No James.” And James responds with “No James. No, James. Shut the fuck up.”

Yeardley: [00:25:56] Wow, to the two-year-old. 

Ty: [00:25:57] To the two-year-old. Amber says, “Don’t talk to my child that way.” Amber stood up for Wilder. That means she put Wilder before James and that drilled him up. James goes into the bedroom. Amber finishes getting Wilder ready for bed. She puts on the yellow shirt, puts on his pajama bottoms, and then she takes Wilder into the bedroom where the crib is at. Amber puts Wilder into the crib. Wilder says to his mother, Amber, “No James.” She responds, “Are you scared when James screams?” and Wilder says, “Yes.” Amber assures him, “There’s no reason to be scared. I’m here.” She puts him down into bed, and there’s a toy called Catboy. And she goes to find Catboy toy to bring back to Wilder. So, she leaves the door cracked open. When she comes back, James says, “I closed the door. He’s fine. Just leave him alone. He’ll fall asleep.”

[00:26:55] Amber and James talk about the door being closed. Then that stood out in her mind. And so, the officer gets to the point and says, “So what about the blood in the crib?” And Amber looks at him and she’s shocked, frozen. And then she puts her hand over her mouth and she said, “Did James do something?” And the detective says, “We don’t know.” She puts her hand over her mouth, and she just starts screaming, “Oh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God.” And then starts crying into the towel that she has. And then that was the first time that she had learned that there was blood inside the crib. And so, it couldn’t have come from just a fall at that point. 

[00:27:33] And when Amber walked out of the police station, she never went back to Staley’s house. She never returned.

Dave: [00:27:40] Good for her. 

Ty: [00:27:41] Yeah. 

Yeardley: [00:27:59] So, James Staley has lawyered up and he’s not giving any statements. And I’m assuming Wilder’s little body has been taken for an autopsy.

Ty: [00:28:07] That is correct. As the officers leave the scene, Wilder goes for autopsy. 

Yeardley: [00:28:12] What does the autopsy reveal? 

Ty: [00:28:15] Dr Hastings. performed the autopsy and he found numerous petechiae on the face and the neck and concentrated on the left side. 

Yeardley: [00:28:22] And what is that, petechiae?

Dave: [00:28:25] Tiny pinprick, little dots of red. And you’ll see those in shaken babies were out on the margins of the sclera and the whites of the eyes, you get these petechial hemorrhages.

Paul: [00:28:36] And I just want to say that it’s often diagnostic of either strangulation or asphyxiation.

Ty: [00:28:42] Yeah. And in cases like Wilder here, you take the bottom eyelid and just pull it down a little bit of the deceased, and then that can be a clue. It’s a good place to catch some petechiae there as well, which we did in this case. But the autopsy confirmed that there was numerous petechiae on the face and neck concentrated on the left side. There was no frenulum damage. Sometimes in a suffocation, you’ll get some tear, but Wilder’s frenulum was intact and there was really no other damage. The skull was absent of fractures. He didn’t have anything other than quarter-inch incisions on his upper and lower lip.

Yeardley: [00:29:15] How did Wilder get those cuts inside his mouth? 

Ty: [00:29:18] Those basically come from when the pressure is applied to the mouth. That skin has to go somewhere, so it finds itself migrating between the teeth, and from when it gets there, then that’s the bloodletting event in Wilder’s case. However, the autopsy came back as undetermined.

Yeardley: [00:29:36] And why is that? 

Ty: [00:29:37] It’s frustrating for me, because I want to see homicide or something like that when you have all this. But Dr. Hastings, he doesn’t have the information, and he is not bound by the penal code, he’s bound by his profession. It’s going to be four different scenarios. He can come up with suicide, homicide, accidental, or undetermined. And there was limited information that early on to say what the cause was. Dr. Hastings doesn’t have the investigation folding out in front of him. He’s simply looking and cannot determine if it was natural causes. So, the autopsy at that point was actually undetermined. 

Dave: [00:30:09] You’d rather him say undetermined than accidental or natural.

Yeardley: [00:30:14] Because if it’s undetermined, there’s a greater likelihood the investigation will be kept open. 

Dave: [00:30:18] Yeah, it’s an open-ended conclusion and not definite. We’ve all heard of cases where it’s classified as a suicide, and what that entails trying to get that reversed. It’s a heavy lift. 

Paul: [00:30:31] You think about these pathologists or the medical examiner or an elected coroner, and they issue a death certificate with a manner of death. And then evidence comes up that possibly says, “Well, you’re wrong in your determination manner of death.” Well, there’re egos involved. And so, you have a fight on your hand. 

Yeardley: [00:30:53] Frustrating. So, it’s undetermined. What do you do then? 

Ty: [00:30:58] That became not only our frustration, but the community’s frustration as well, when it seemed like weren’t doing anything. 

Dave: [00:31:04] So, there was this campaign to push for justice for Wilder. 

Ty: [00:31:08] Yeah. 

Dave: [00:31:09] But law enforcement is in a position where they can’t put hooks on anybody at this point. 

Ty: [00:31:13] That’s correct. It was Wilder’s dad who created this Facebook called Justice for Wilder.

Yeardley: [00:31:19] So Wilder’s biological father? 

Ty: [00:31:20] Yes. He and Amber were separated and he was out of town when he learned from his mother that Wilder was dead. In the justice for Wilder, he created shirts with a Wilder emblem on it. It was much blue shirts. Instead of Superman, it had the W in the middle. He had shirts, he had hats. 

Dave: [00:31:40] That’s a papa bear response.

Ty: [00:31:42] It’s a papa bear response. I don’t disagree with that. 

Dave: [00:31:44] A lot of times, the lack of press release or the lack of information that’s going out from the law enforcement agency makes the public think, “Oh, they’re not doing shit.” And it’s hard to get that across to people because they see lack of information flow as inaction. And really, it’s more of a protection. We’re trying to protect this case so we don’t contaminate it with outside stuff so we can defend this in court. 

Ty: [00:32:13] Yes. And Wilder’s dad, he’s trying to do it the way he knows how to do, to bring attention to his son’s death. 

Dave: [00:32:19] Right. 

Ty: [00:32:21] The community was behind them in doing so, trying to support. There were lots of yard signs with Justice Wilder signs and businesses. Through it all, we would talk with him. 

Dave: [00:32:30] I feel horrible for him. 

Ty: [00:32:32] I do too. And so, I believe it’s important to note that 11 days after the murder, on the 22nd, the officers learned that Staley was moving out of his residence. He was moving. They decided to go back to the house with a search warrant. And when they get to the house, James will not come to the door. So, they contacted his friendly attorney that showed up at the police station. That attorney arrives on scene, calls Staley inside of his house, to which Staley then finally opens the door and comes out. And they tell him, “We have a search warrant to search the residence.” James asked, “If he could leave and he was free to leave.” But as he was trying to leave. Supervisor said, “Excuse me, I need your cell phone.” And he didn’t want to give up his cell phone. 

[00:33:13] But James handed over his cell phone, and it was locked, and they asked for his passcode, and he refused to give his passcode. Amber had shown up across the street to watch the search warrant. The officers went over and actually seized her cell from her at that time as well. Staley’s cell phone, Amber’s too were sent to the NTRCFL, which is the North Texas Regional Forensic Lab, to be forensically reviewed. There was a Mac mini found inside that walk-in closet where James had his head between his knees. And the police seized that Mac mini and they take the pillow out back inside the crime lab there at the PD. 

Yeardley: [00:33:48] This is the pillow that they found in Wilder’s crib?

Ty: [00:33:52] Yes, that they seized from the crib. And now the crime scene tech is back at the police department. They pull those items out to examine them now. That’s when they notice there’s a horseshoe shape on the pillow in blood. And then they think they can see a bloody palm print on the pillow. And so, they photograph it. They give high pic resolution photos of it. And now they’ve got another avenue to investigate, to see whose palm print is this. So, they get a hold of Amber. Amber comes in and voluntarily gives a DNA swab and her prints. James, not so much. They get the search warrant. They contact his attorney. I think by this time he’s living up in Oklahoma. James comes in with his attorney. They take the DNA sample, and of course, this prints as well. 

Ty: [00:34:37] So, as the investigation goes, they contact Alice White from Las Vegas. She’s with Evolve Forensics and she’s very good with prints. And so, the police department submits the prints to her to be reviewed with what was on the pillow and she excludes Amber from the bloody palm print on the pillow, but Staley’s inclusive.

Yeardley: [00:35:00] Which means they have a partial palm print and it matches part of what Staley’s palm print reveals. Is that so? 

Ty: [00:35:09] Yes. Whatever the lowest degree of that is, that’s where James is. And the reason is because you have the inflection of the palm, the material of which the blood is being applied to. So, it gets distorted. So, you really don’t have much because they can’t definitively say that’s his palm. And so, speaking with Alice and not wanting just to be dead in the water, there’s another person that she consults with named John Vanderkolk. He’s very known in that field as well. So, we submitted it to Vanderkolk as well. And Vanderkolk excluded both Amber and Staley for that being their palm print. And so basically, now we got a bloody palm print and nothing to compare it too, you think you got something and you don’t. 

Paul: [00:35:51] This bloody palm print, it’s on fabric, right? 

Ty: [00:35:55] Yes, sir. 

Paul: [00:35:56] Was there ridge detail present? Was there the creases that you see within the palm, or are they comparing overarching class characteristics? The various regions to say, “Hey, based on size and based on configuration, Amber’s palm doesn’t match up with this class characteristic.”

Ty: [00:36:16] Yeah, it’s just not a clean palm print on a nice clean surface. It just wasn’t enough there to get it.

Dave: [00:36:22] I mean, it’s fabric. You just think of blood being on a bedsheet and how quickly that spreads out. And now there’s no detail. Whereas minutes ago, there was some detail. 

Paul: [00:36:33] The way I’m looking at this, I mean, it’s most certainly something that you go after. But no matter what opinion is rendered, it’s still weak evidence.

Ty: [00:36:42] Yeah. At this point, Vanderkolk comes back, it’s inconclusive. White can’t say for sure that it’s James, we’ve reached out to a reconstructionist.

Yeardley: [00:36:52] Okay. Small Town Fam, as promised. I’m breaking in to let you know that this is the first time you should skip ahead 1 minute and 10 seconds if you don’t want to hear some of what Wilder endured. Ty gives us these details to illustrate how his team is trying to reconstruct the crime, since all they have so far is circumstantial evidence. If you choose to skip ahead, you’ll pick up with Ty saying that Wilder’s autopsy is inconclusive and the bloody palm print on the pillowcase is useless.

Ty: [00:37:29] So, we get with Everett Baxter, the reconstructionist, trying to help us sequence the crime and gave him the information in the reports. And he came up with a sequence of events that we thought were pretty good. An individual that went into the room, forcibly placed their hand over the mouth of Wilder, creating the bloodletting event. Blood gets transferred to the sheets and to the pillow. In Baxter’s scenario, he thinks the pillow is grabbed by the individual and placed over the mouth of Wilder, forcibly so and held down for a length of time. Wilder still has breath, he’s expiring.

Yeardley: [00:38:02] He’s spraying blood out of his mouth. 

Ty: [00:38:05] Out of his mouth. So, they have real fine blood splatter on the pillow. For sequencing you can tell, well, he wasn’t dead when the pillow got there. You know, it’s a dynamic event when strangling someone, the pillow is kind of telling the story.

Dave: [00:38:17] Little two-year-old Wilder is fighting for his life. 

Ty: [00:38:22] Yeah. I imagine grabbing at the hands of the individual, just trying to get a breath of air. It’s sad when you think about it. DA Gillespie and I traveled Oklahoma City, met with Baxter, and he was able to really demonstrate where the blood was and how it could be on both sides of the pillow. And that was useful for the DA and I to see that. So, autopsy is undetermined. The palm print doesn’t really check out. DNA comes from the lab and on the pillow, we end up having Wilder’s DNA and Staley’s DNA. And you think, “Man, that’s great,” but it’s Staley’s house there is innocent explanations that puts the DNA on the pillow. It’s just not the aha everybody thought. What’s crazy is that Amber, who put Wilder into the bed, her DNA is not present.

Yeardley: [00:39:08] Oh.

Ty: [00:39:10] Yeah. And Wilder came from the bathtub clean. And so, it’s the palm print right? You kind of can get there, but you kind of can’t. 

Paul: [00:39:18] DNA evidence is not the end all be all. And you really have to evaluate DNA evidence within the context of the crime. And here, as Ty pointed out, this is Staley’s house. Staley’s DNA on this pillow means nothing. This is where you have to find DNA that you have confidence, came from the commission of the crime. This would be such as Staley saying, “I never touched Wilder after he was found, after he was bleeding.” And if his hands had been swabbed and Wilder’s blood were found on his hands, that would be significant. 

Ty: [00:39:55] Yes. And going back to what Paul just said, we were reviewing the evidence and then we find on there, Wilder’s fingernails were never tested. So, we submit the fingernails and then time goes by and we’re waiting.

Dave: [00:40:10] For our listeners who think that DNA is like a CSI show and you get it in four hours. From October 11th, 12th where we’ve got this crime that occurs to the time that you finally get this DNA evidence from Wilder’s fingernails back, how much time has passed? 

Ty: [00:40:28] I remember it being in December and I’m going to say probably around December of 21 we got it back. And James Staley’s DNA was found under the fingernails of Wilder McDaniel.

Yeardley: [00:40:39] Oh my God. That’s a huge break. 

Ty: [00:40:41] Yeah. Now go back to Wilder being in the bath, being clean, and then now the photo becomes important because you got those little half-moon scratches on his hands. 

Yeardley: [00:40:52] You’re talking about the photo of Staley’s hands where he said, I was eating ice cream sandwiches, but there’s this dark matter under his fingernails, it very well could be dried blood. 

Ty: [00:41:03] Yes. 

Dave: [00:41:03] And you’ve got these half-moon abrasions on Staley’s hands.

Ty: [00:41:08] That’s correct. And so, John Gillespie and I get together, he comes up with the idea we need a child abuse expert. We find Dr. Suzanne Dakil. She’s a doctor there at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. She’s in pediatrics. She’s phenomenal. We’ve used her on other cases. She goes through the case, gets the autopsy and Wilder’s previous medical records, and we’re talking about a healthy two-year-old child up to this point. 

Yeardley: [00:41:37] Okay, listeners, this is the second time you should skip ahead. If you don’t want to hear what true evil does, you’ll need to skip ahead 1 minute and 50 seconds. Then you’ll pick up with Paul saying the crime scene where Wilder was found on the floor of his bedroom was likely staged.

Ty: [00:41:58] Dr. Dakil says Wilder has hemorrhage of the sternocleidomastoid muscle in the neck from some type of direct trauma to the neck. This is not an injury that would occur in a household fall. This injury can be seen in compressive or strangulation trauma. Dr. Dakil makes note of the injuries inside of the lips and that they’re consistent with the lips being pushed against the teeth. The room where Wilder was found, there was a pillow with blood smears. These findings are consistent with the pillow being placed over Wilder’s face, blocking his breathing. Wilder moved his head trying to get a breath resulting in the blood smearing on the sheet and then on the pillow. At this time, there’s no evidence of medical cause of Wilder’s death according to Dr. Dakil. There is no history of accidental trauma. 

[00:42:39] This would have caused him to suddenly die in his sleep. There are clear findings of trauma in this case and the findings of the autopsy along with the medical history and the findings in his room are the most consistent with a suffocation event. With his age and development, he would not suffocate in a pillow or bedding like a newborn might. Complete restriction of blood flow to the head and brain can result in the death within three to four minutes. Restriction of oxygen intake, like in a drowning, can take four to six minutes. Suffocation takes longer and varies in the ability of the victim to get intermittent or small breaths. Suffocation in this manner could take anywhere up to 10 minutes. It’s just horrible to think of young Wilder for 3 or to 10 minutes just struggling at the hands of James Staley. It’s just almost unfathomable.

Dave: [00:43:27] For our listeners just take 40 seconds and hold your breath. Realize how long that is and then multiply it up to 10 minutes. That is a long, sustained assault. 

Paul: [00:43:39] Yeah. This is not a oops. This is a prolonged attack by the offender on Wilder. And all of this violence is occurring inside the crib. Wilder being on the floor is a staged crime. After the offender has realized Wilder is dead, setting the crime up to make it look as an accident. 

Yeardley: [00:44:05] So, Ty, Dr. Dakil gives you a really educated assessment of what might have happened to young Wilder. 

Ty: [00:44:14] Yeah, Dr. Dakil was man, at that time, she was my hero. You put so many hours into this. Nobody sees it. The community uproar, we’re not doing anything, we’re just letting– the guy’s got money. We’re all bought. We’ve all heard it. You can’t show your hand. You got to play it close to the chest. Here comes Dr. Dakil. And fortunately for the county that I live in, we have a DA that leans in and not back. And so, after Dr. Dakil and all the interviews and everything that we have at that point, we all get together and the police departments get an arrest warrant for James Staley. Almost two years to the day, the PD and I went up into Oklahoma, contacted their police department. I found his truck outside of his apartment which, by the way, was just above the old police station. 

Yeardley: [00:44:58] Staley’s apartment is above the old police station in Oklahoma.

Ty: [00:45:02] Yes, yes.So, we did surveillance most of the night. He didn’t go anywhere. And the next morning, a team went up there and executed the arrest warrant. And he came down and I was able to tell him that finally he was under arrest for the murder of Wilder McDaniel. Very good moment for me personally and for the guys that worked at the PD that put so much into this and for our community to know work was being done.

Yeardley: [00:45:25] And what’s Staley’s affect when you tell him he’s being arrested for murder? 

Ty: [00:45:31] You know, I’m glad you asked that. It was odd. As soon as I tell him, he cringes almost to just break down, really crying, and lets out a breath, and then takes one big breath, stands up like nothing’s wrong, and changes like, I can’t do that. Just in a nanosecond, the mood was way down and then back to nothing. 

Dave: [00:45:51] I always believe that suspects in those situations, they’ve already come to terms with this is a possibility that they’re going to be arrested someday. And so, the emotional event, they’ve already gone through that in their head so many times that it’s much more protracted when it actually happens. I think that’s what’s going on the first time they serve a search warrant at the 4300 square-foot house is that he won’t answer the door because he thinks he’s going away in handcuffs. Like, they figured it out and they’re back for me. And now he has moved north and he moved to, I’m guessing, a much smaller space to live in. That’s an interesting life development right after a child dies in your house. 

Ty: [00:46:34] Yeah. The apartment is entirely small, like a little living room area and a bedroom and a small kitchen between the two. Very cluttered refrigerator. There wasn’t much in it. You could tell he was very isolated.

Ty: [00:47:03] So at this point, it’s a circumstantial case. Now, from the murder to the search warrant was 11 days. The detective originally thought the phone that James had was replaced by another phone. But then I’m looking at the phone one day and my DA walks by and said, “Hey, boss, this is the phone that James had the night of the murder.”

Yeardley: [00:47:22] Sorry, back up just a second. A detective thought that by the time you seized James’ phone, he had replaced his original phone from the night of the murder? 

Ty: [00:47:32] Yes. 

Yeardley: [00:47:33] And that detective was then under the impression that since James had a new phone, you weren’t going to get all the information you needed.

Ty: [00:47:42] That’s correct. And I asked him, “Where did you get that impression?” He doesn’t recall. And so, I told my boss, “Hey, we have the phone and it’s a partial download.” And my boss is like, “We have to try this again. Send this back to the lab. And see if we can get a full download. It’s been a couple of years.” And so, we send it to the Secret Service.

Yeardley: [00:48:01] Is that like Secret Service who guards the president? 

Ty: [00:48:04] Yes, ma’am. 

Yeardley: [00:48:04] They download phones, too. 

Ty: [00:48:06] It’s good to be an FBI task force officer sometimes, isn’t it? 


Yeardley: [00:48:10] Yes, it is. 

Dan: [00:48:10] I was going to say, this guy’s got some tools that sometimes aren’t offered to the rest of us.

Ty: [00:48:15] Yeah. And so, we sent the phone to Secret Service Forensic Labs in San Antonio. They assist with outside agencies and they did so in this case. And the guys did a fantastic job of getting it to us. They’re able to get a full download of James’ phone. We discovered the text messages and they were shocking. 

Yeardley: [00:48:38] And who are they between?

Ty: [00:48:39] James Staley and Amber, the relationship, as I said, it lasted 78 days. There is over 10,000 texts. The relationship was mostly in text. So, 13 days into the relationship, on August 8th, there was a Facebook messenger exchange where James is calling Wilder horrible things.

Yeardley: [00:49:02] Oh, my God. 

Ty: [00:49:04] There were other texts that he was telling Amber she and Wilder should stay away from him. But yet she comes back to James and at the end of August, she has to work at the bar. While Amber’s at the bar working, she has Staley watch Wilder. And during that night, Staley is on the bed with Wilder and they’re playing. And Wilder falls off the bed and hits his head. And in Staley’s phone, we find a video of him sitting next to Wilder on the couch. And he says, “Babe, I’m here with Wilder. Looks like he fell off the bed, has a pretty good shiner. And then he turns to Wilder and says, do you think I pushed you off the bed?” And Wilder says, “Yes.” And he gets this creepy laugh. And he goes, “Ha, ha, ha that’s not what happened. Babe, boy fell off the bed, got a shiner, I need you to come home.”

[00:49:57] Well, he texts that to Amber. And he sends Amber, I don’t know, maybe 40 or 50 texts in a row. She’s not responding. Turns out her phone in her back pocket on vibrate. She’s moving fast. It’s busy. James goes from the child falling off the bed to Amber. “You’re a horrible mother. You’re a slut. Just degrading her. How could you?” And then starts blaming Amber for all sorts of things. Amber leaves the job, comes home to find Wilder. The next morning, the whole side of Wilder’s face is black and blue. Amber takes a picture. She says she took the photo to send to her boss to say, “This is why I needed to leave early last night.” But we have that photo of Wilder’s side of his face just black and blue. 

[00:50:42] So, the text messages that came off of Staley’s phone went to show Staley’s hatred for Wilder. There was one text in there that said that Staley was referring to Wilder and said he should have kicked him to the floor and said, “Fuck you, snake.” Well, it’s crazy because he actually did that. Kicked him to the floor. I get a sense of when reading these texts, he’s telling us what he did. We feel very good about going to trial armed with these texts. The disturbing thing about that is this was a text exchange between James and Amber. So, if she’s cooperating, how come we don’t know about this and we called her in, “So, look, the good, the bad, the ugly, we need to know about it.” 

[00:51:19] And then Amber says, “There’s nothing,” and then they go to social media saying, the police aren’t doing anything, they’re lying that sort of thing. So, we’re really feeling the pressure. All the time, Amber had a few cards that would really help us focus this investigation if we knew about the text that she deleted from her phone, only to say that she thought we’d find him on his phone. So, she never gave that up. So, after learning that Amber was confronted with that information, the reason why she never disclosed those messages, admitted to deleting those texts from James after the murder. As a result, she was arrested for tampering with evidence and endangering a child. The fact that she knew that the child was beat in James Staley’s custody and then did nothing about it, allowed the child to go back around him. She caught that charge as well. 

[00:52:05] Once that affidavit came out about the text message and Amber, the community quieted down. They realized there was much more going on than what everyone thought. And so, we felt very good, not only after Dr. Dakil’s conclusion of everything that she saw, now we have these text messages that really shows James’ hatred for Wilder. James talks about burning the house down with Wilder in it. And then the night of the murder, James says that “There’s no way that I can deal with the crying child tonight.” Those would have been very useful in the course of this investigation. So, we received our most damning piece of evidence after three years. COVID had happened. People weren’t working in the lab, so nobody downloaded the Mac mini. Once the Mac mini was downloaded, they did a forensic analysis of that. It turns out James Staley really likes his GoPro’s.

Yeardley: [00:52:59] All right, this is the last place where details of James Staley’s unimaginable cruelty towards Wilder are described. You can fast forward 1 minute and 10 seconds to skip it, and you’ll pick up with Detective Ty describing how it took three years to get the GoPro footage. But it was the slam dunk they needed to arrest Staley for murder.

Ty: [00:53:23] James one night, had set the GoPro on a shelf, Wilder’s sleeping on the couch. All of a sudden, you see a big shadow walk into the frame. And then that shadow turns into James Staley walking towards Wilder. James walks behind the couch, kneels down below Wilder, and sets there for 15, 20 seconds. James stands up, raises his hand above his head, and comes down full force and slaps Wilder on the side of his face and neck with the biggest slap sound that you could hear before quickly ducking down behind the couch, where Wilder wakes up screaming. And he starts saying, “No, James. No, James.” And Wilder consoles himself, ends up putting the warm side of his face to the cool couch to help it cool off, just to close his eyes and hopefully to go back to sleep. 

[00:54:18] It sets silently for a couple of minutes. And then from behind the couch, James stands up, tippy toes to a door, opens it, and then slams it shut and then tippy toes, tippy toes and then takes off running to the back of the house. Then it ends. It took three years to finally get to that point, having something that we could now document what the relationship was like. And so, in February of 2023, James went on trial for capital murder. Of course, he’s out on bond, so he’s not in jail. During the trial, I would walk up by James and he would be taking selfies. I know he was texting family members who were texting me, telling me that he thinks he’s 10,000% certain he’s going to be found not guilty. 

[00:55:01] The jurors took four hours and they came back with a guilty verdict. Once he was remanded into custody, he stood up in the courtroom and he said, “I did not kill Wilder McDaniel.” Amber’s mother real quickly snapped back and said, “Yes, you did.”

Yeardley: [00:55:16] What is James Staley’s actual sentence? 

TY: [00:55:20] He was charged with capital murder. So here in Texas, that involves life without parole. That’s 60 years. He’ll be eligible parole in 30. But the state’s not going to give it to him. He is where he’s going to be. 

Dave: [00:55:33] He’ll never hurt another kid. 

Ty: [00:55:36] No. Now, as far as Amber, she gave a pretty good victim impact statement. Amber testified at the trial of having the text, deleting them. She was there to just do what she had to do as a mother and testify against James. She got her tampering with evidence and endangering of child charges. Amber pled guilty to the judge and she asked for a jury trial for sentencing. She’s eligible up to 10 years in jail and also 10 years probation. There’re people that think that she gets what Staley got, life in prison. There are others that think she’s grieving enough and nothing should happen. But she’s pled guilty and become accountable for her actions. And we’ll see what the jury does tomorrow but you get to know the victim. And I’ve seen things with Amber. She loved the child. 

[00:56:20] She just made some really bad choices that she should not have had. And protecting the child should have come first. It’s just very unfortunate that Wilder’s path crossed with James Staley. 

Yeardley: [00:56:30] So, listeners, since I’ve already broken the fourth wall in this episode a couple of times, I’m going to do it again and give you an update on Amber’s fate. As Ty just said, the day after we recorded this episode, a jury decided Amber’s sentencing. They gave her two years in jail for the charge of endangering a child and then five years probation for tampering with evidence. 

Paul: [00:56:54] I just want to point something out here. Oftentimes in these child abuse crimes, and Dave most certainly could speak to this, there’s the precipitating events, like in this case, the child is crying and there’s this emotional response by the offender. What really stands out to me is this GoPro footage. James Staley set the GoPro up to record and then he’s recording himself, in essence, putting fear into Wilder, hurting Wilder. There is an element to his psychology that suggests that he enjoys inflicting this fear into this child. I bet if he were to continue and be free and date other women who had children, you’d probably see other children who are going to be abused and possibly killed. There is a certain fantasy aspect that he is exhibiting through the setting up of that GoPro. 

Ty: [00:57:57] And to your point, Paul, there were a lot of things that were deleted, but this video wasn’t. And it was watched by him two days after the murder.

Yeardley: [00:58:05] Oh, my God. 

Dave: [00:58:06] That’s his trophy. “This is how I remember what I did.”

Ty: [00:58:10] Yeah, the old souvenir. 

Dave: [00:58:12] Absolutely. You wonder how many times James did something similar to strike fear into Wilder before he actually had the forethought of, “I’m going to set up a GoPro and record this.” 

Ty: [00:58:24] Yeah. 

Paul: [00:58:25] James Staley is on the path to becoming a serial child killer. And due to the efforts of you, Ty and the other people involved in this investigation, I believe you saved other children’s lives as a result of getting James Staley in custody.

Dave: [00:58:44] No question in my mind either. 

Yeardley: [00:58:45] I think these stories are the hardest ones to hear, probably the hardest ones to tell. Also, the ones with the youngest victims. But there is some solace in the fact that there’re people like you all out there fighting to make sure that they aren’t forgotten and that they do get justice. So, thank you for that. 

Ty: [00:59:07] Yes, ma’am. 

Dave: [00:59:08] Great work. I’m impressed with your patience and understanding. “Hey, we’ll get there. Let’s just not rush anything.” I appreciate the work.

Ty: [00:59:16] Persistence. If you’re going to get there it’s persistence and just never stop looking. The fingernails, they were overlooked. Nobody meant to. COVID was anomaly that I hope we’ll never have again but everything slowed down. It was a crazy part of this case. Thank goodness I have it. Like I said, “A DA that leans in and doesn’t lean back and we’re able to make things happen.” And thank you all for letting us tell it on here as well. 

Dave: [00:59:39] Absolutely. 

Paul: [00:59:40] And Chief, I’ve said my piece in terms of the quality of the work and I appreciate you taking the time to tell the story of the case. But I want to end on a positive note as I look forward to the next time we can meet up and have a few drinks and swap a few stories. 

Ty: [00:59:55] As do I. 


Yeardley: [00:59:58] Fantastic. Thank you so much. 


Yeardley: [01:00:03] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and me, Yeardley Smith, and coproduced by Detectives Dan and Dave. Our production manager is Logan Heftel. Our senior editor is Soren Begin, and our editor is Christina Bracamontes. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor and the Real Nick Smitty. Our social media is run by the one and only Monika Scott. Our music is composed by John Forest and our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.

Dan: [01:00:35] If you like what you hear and want to stay up to date with the show, visit us on our website at

Yeardley: [01:00:42] Small Town Dicks would like to thank SpeechDocs for providing transcripts of this podcast. You can find these transcripts on our episode page at And for more information about SpeechDocs and their service, please go to

Dan: [01:00:59] And join the Small Town Fam by following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @smalltowndicks. We love hearing from you. 

Dave: [01:01:07] And if you support us on Patreon, your subscription will give you access to exclusive content and merchandise that isn’t available anywhere else. Go to

Yeardley: [01:01:19] That’s right. Your subscription also makes it possible for us to keep going to small towns across the country-

Dan: [01:01:26] -in search of the finest-

Dave: [01:01:27] -rare-

Dan: [01:01:28] -true crime cases told-

Dave: [01:01:29] -as always, by the detectives who investigated them. So, thanks for listening, Small Town Fam. 

Yeardley: [01:01:35] Nobody’s better than you.  

[Transcript provided by SpeechDocs Podcast Transcription]