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A Texas mother was arrested on felony charges related to the murder of her 2-year-old son, allegedly by her boyfriend, after investigators uncovered deleted texts they say demonstrate she didn't do enough to protect her child.
Amber Nichole McDaniel, 31, turned herself into the Wichita Falls Police Department last Thursday and was released the same day, according to local station KFDX-TV. She is being charged with felony child endangerment and tampering with evidence.
McDaniel’s son, Jason ‘Wilder’ McDaniel, 2, was found dead at the home of McDaniel’s boyfriend home on Oct. 11, 2018, according to KFDX. He had allegedly been smothered to death and found on the floor beside his crib.
A detailed autopsy report also found evidence of blunt force trauma.
Investigators allege McDaniel was drunk and asleep in another room when her boyfriend, James Staley III, murdered her son.
According to the Wichita Falls Police Department, charges against McDaniel stem from unearthed texts and messages that McDaniel deleted in the wake of her son’s death. She also failed to disclose the texts to the police, hindering the investigation, according to KFDX.
Investigators said the deleted texts came from Staley and included graphic and violent messages regarding the child. Some were as recent as last spring.
“Scumbags and p*****s need to be culled,” read one message, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by News Channel 6. “They both fall in that category. And I got plenty of guns.”
Amber claimed that Staley later apologized for the statements and said he was off his medication when he wrote it, according to News Channel 6.
The discovery came after a Secret Service lab examined Staley's phone.
“Any minimally protective mother would have immediately cut off Staley’s access to her son after receiving those Facebook messages,” authorities stated in McDaniel's arrest affidavit, according to Times Record News.
While some of the messages and texts were too graphic to be published, some showed that Staley referred to the boy with dozens of “dehumanizing” names and expressed hope that he’d die of SIDS, according to Times Record. Staley also referenced punching the child.
“I should have punched him in the face and kicked him to the floor and said (expletive) you, snake,” Staley allegedly wrote.
Despite the messages, authorities said McDaniel allowed Staley to babysit Wilder while she worked as a bartender.
In one recorded video, Staley filmed the boy, who had bruises on his head and face. “It’s quite the shiner, but you think I pushed you off the bed?” Staley asked the boy.
Wilder said yes.
“That’s not what happened,” responded Staley, according to Times Record.
McDaniel also told police that Staley threatened to put the boy in a tinderbox, supported by Staley’s messages.
“Only the good die young,” Staley allegedly said in another message. “That f*****r is living forever.”
Staley also used homophobic and racist slurs against the child, authorities said.
“Your affiant believes that Amber committed the offense of endangering Wilder, a child, on an ongoing basis by regularly forcing Wilder to be around James Staley, and by getting drunk and going to bed and leaving James Staley up in a house while her son, who Staley hated, [w]as asleep in the other room,” the affidavit concluded, according to WCSI News.
Wichita Falls Police Sergeant Charlie Eipper talked about the emotional impact this case has had on the community, how many are parents and grandparents themselves."The community has been wanting to seek justice for this child," Eipper told Oxygen.com. "And that's what we're working on and we're confident that's what we will reach."
James Staley III is currently awaiting trial after a grand jury indicted him for murder in 2020.
Amber McDaniel was released on $60,000 bond on the same day she turned herself in.
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