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Courtroom shouts ‘Yes, you did!’ as ‘piece of s—‘ scion of oil barons insists he didn’t smother 2-year-old boy with pillow

James Staley

James Staley pictured in court, via KFDX screengrab

A descendent of oil barons convicted of capital murder in the death of his ex-girlfriend’s 2-year-old son was reportedly shouted down by trial attendees as he proclaimed his innocence while being hauled off to prison for life without parole.

Jurors in Wichita County, Texas, needed roughly four hours to find James Irven Staley III guilty on Monday of murdering 2-year-old Jason Wilder McDaniel in October 2018 by smothering the boy in his crib with a pillow. After sentencing and as he was being cuffed, the Wichita Falls Times Record News reported, Staley declared: “I did not kill Wilder McDaniel.”

That assertion of innocence was immediately rejected by those who had attended the trial.

“Yes, you did! Yes, you did!” court watchers reportedly shouted, as the judge demanded order in the courtroom.

Despite suspicions as to Staley’s culpability in the years after Wilder’s death, the long and winding capital murder case did not reach the Wichita Falls oil scion until October 2020. Six months after the murder, the victim’s mother Amber Odom McDaniel filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Staley and married Wilder’s father, Bubba McDaniel.

At trial, Amber McDaniel reportedly admitted to deleting her text messages with Staley and said she was testifying because she “owe[d] it to [her] son.” She testified against Staley without a deal with the prosecution, even as the child endangerment and evidence tampering charges against her remain pending.

The evidence reportedly showed that Staley had sent Amber a number of shocking messages that he brushed off as dark jokes — messages like: “Maybe he will get SIDS” or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome; “I want to punch him in the face, but he’s too cute”; “I like punching him in the face when he whines, but it’s getting old”; and “Don’t worry, if this doesn’t work out, I’ll kill you. So it will be the last relationship you’re in.”

Investigators in the case argued that these messages were “powerful evidence” that Staley hated Wilder and followed through on his wishes for the boy’s violent death.

After the verdict, both Amber and Bubba McDaniel slammed the defendant as a coward.

“I actually did not prepare a statement, but I feel my son deserves this. I’ve waited 4 1/2 years to look you in your eyes and tell you that my 2.5-year-old son is more of a man than you will ever be. You never deserved Wilder in your life. You have destroyed everything. My son, who is not even a year old yet, will never know his brother because of you. You may have thought you were going to get away with this, and you may have gotten away with many other things in your life, but my 2-year-old son took you down. You are evil,” Amber McDaniel said, KAUZ reported.

“It takes a real piece of shit to stay in that cycle and abuse people who are small and defenseless,” Bubba McDaniel noted. “You’ll get to sit in a cell with other men, and those men are going to love you because they’ll know a child killer is with them the rest of his life.”

James Staley mugshot

James Staley mugshot via Tarrant County Corrections Center

Wichita County District Attorney John Gillespie reportedly added in a statement of his own that the case took a long time to charge and convict because real life is “not like CSI or TV shows.”

“Some of the testing took 18 months to two years to build the entire case,” the DA said.

Staley is in now custody at the Tarrant County Corrections Center, records reviewed by Law&Crime show.

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.