Joseph Ray Daniels was convicted after a week-long trial

By Chris Harris
June 14, 2021 01:53 PM
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Joseph Daniels and his son, Joe
| Credit: Tennessee Bureau of Federal Investigation

Over the weekend, a Tennessee jury returned a guilty verdict against a 31-year-old father accused in the 2018 bludgeoning death of his 5-year-old son with autism, PEOPLE confirms.

Joseph Ray Daniels is set to be sentenced on Sept. 14, after being convicted Saturday of first-degree murder in perpetration of a felony, second-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, filing a false report and evidence tampering.

The guilty verdict followed a weeklong trial and comes three years after Daniels' son was reported missing.

In April 2018, the Dickson County Sheriff's Office alleged Daniels intentionally killed his son, Joseph "Joe Clyde" Daniels, who had autism and was non-verbal.

The 5-year-old was first reported missing on April 4, 2018, leading to an exhaustive search for the boy near his home.

The boy's body still has not been found.

Joseph Daniels admitted to killing the boy, but later recanted his confession - one that his defense attorney argued at trial was coerced.

During the trial, jurors learned that Daniels broke into tears as he confessed to the murder, and screamed out, "Why did I kill my son? Why did I kill my son?"

Police believe the boy was killed on either April 3 or April 4 inside the family's home.

Joe's mother, Krystal Daniels, is also charged with aggravated child abuse and neglect in connection with the case for allegedly witnessing the murder and not helping her son. She has pleaded not guilty. A start date for her trial has not been scheduled and PEOPLE was not immediately able to identify her current attorney.

WZTV, which was present for the trial, reports the prosecution presented text messages at trial between Krystal and another man.

The state said it was possible these sexually-charged texts drove Daniels to kill his son in an act of revenge against Krystal.

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According to the station, Alex Nolan, Joe's now 11-year-old half-brother, took the stand during the trial to testify about the night the boy vanished.

He recalled seeing Joe motionless on the ground, and that the defendant carried the boy to the back door of the house.

Nolan said he watched Daniels carry his half-brother in his arms down the street.

The next morning, Daniels told the boy that Joe had run away, Nolan testified.