Joseph Daniels was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison with the possibility of parole for the 2018 murder of his 5-year-old son, Joe Clyde.

The Dickson County man was convicted earlier this summer of second-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, murder committed during a felony, making a false report and tampering with evidence.

The murder and abuse charges merged to require a sentence of life in prison. After 51 years, when he is 82, Daniels will be eligible for parole.

Judge David Wolfe said it was likely Daniels would die in prison.

For the lesser charges, Wolfe sentenced Daniels to the maximum of four years and six years for making a false report and tampering with evidence, respectively. He looked at enhancing factors such as the fact that the crime was committed against a victim who was vulnerable because of age or disability and that Daniels was a leader in a crime involving two or more actors.

He ruled that Daniels will serve these sentences concurrently with the life sentence, meaning that he will not have to serve time after his life sentence. Part of this reasoning was to reduce the chance that the ruling would be reversed and that Joe Clyde’s 11-year-old half-brother, Alex Nolan, would have to testify again.

In the sentencing hearing Tuesday afternoon, defense attorney Jake Lockert wanted to call Nolan as a witness.

Nolan gave tearful testimony during the trial that he saw Daniels standing over Joe Clyde’s body before Daniels carried the body down the driveway.

Lockert said Nolan was necessary as a witness, as he was the only one who saw the crime.

Lockert called Daniels’ aunt Joyce Austin to the stand to solidify his point that Nolan was the only witness.

Austin testified that she was hard of hearing and did not have hearing aids at the time of the crime; therefore, she didn’t hear anything the night that Joe Clyde went missing.

Wolfe ruled that he did not want to subject Nolan to the trauma of testifying again.

The state called witnesses who talked about Daniels’ mental health background. According to records presented as evidence, Daniels had struggled with anger since he was a child.

As he got into his teenage years, he became violent occasionally and had homicidal ideations. He had even threatened to blow up his own home.

“He was a time bomb waiting to go off,” said District Attorney Ray Crouch.

Daniels had also been hospitalized for mental issues, including an attempted suicide.

The mental issues were a mitigating factor Wolfe took into consideration.

Lockert said he will file a motion for a new trial. If that motion is denied, he will file a notice of appeal. Generally this takes a year and a half to two years before an appellate decision, Lockert said.

“I don’t try to predict what the appellate court will do just like I don’t try to predict what a jury will do,” he said.

Lockert did say that for Daniels, the sentencing was “as good as he could hope for” with his convictions.

Daniels was charged with first-degree murder after the disappearance of Joe Clyde in April 2018. Daniels reported that Joe Clyde was missing, sparking one of the largest manhunts in Middle Tennessee until he confessed to killing Joe Clyde a few days later.

Joe Clyde’s body was never found even though Daniels has taken law enforcement to multiple locations.

Daniels has continued to switch between confessing and maintaining his innocence.

A sequestered jury from Hamilton County convicted Daniels after nine hours of deliberation following a nine-day trial.

One of the jurors was in the courtroom for the sentencing.

Immediately before Daniels’ sentencing hearing, his wife, Krystal Daniels, pleaded not guilty to aggravated child abuse, conspiracy to commit aggravated child abuse, filing a false report and tampering with evidence.

Her trial is scheduled for Feb. 1, 2022. The state expects the case will take 10 days, including jury selection.

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