Tennessee deputy hopes to inspire healing of Joe Clyde Daniels murder through art

Sgt Wheeler art of Joe Clyde Daniels.png

NASHVILLE, Tenn.--As the search for a missing 5-year-old Tennessee boy's body continues, the impact of the child's alleged murder at the hands of his father is gripping the state.

Residents, law enforcement, and first responders have come together since Joe Clyde's disappearance to assist in the search for his body. Many of those unable to help have monitored the developments closely and the heartbreak that comes with it.

Among those is Sgt. Lanny Wheeler, a deputy with the White County Sheriff's Department. Sgt. Wheeler, like others, has been emotionally moved by the boy's presumed murder. Speaking with FOX 17 News, Wheeler says being a parent himself, he felt sadness when learning Joe Clyde's parents were arrested.

“When I found out that the case involving Joe Clyde Daniels transitioned from a missing persons case to a homicide investigation, I felt very sad for the child because his parents, who were supposed to be his biggest supporters, are at the center of the investigation," Wheeler says. "I have a child of my own that is Joe Clyde’s age and this investigation really hits home with me as a father as well as a law enforcement professional."

Wheeler's wife says Wheeler has mentioned the child's disappearance every day since he went missing and wonder how someone could hurt someone so innocent.

Moved by the case, the nearly 10 year veteran channeled his emotions through art. “I started drawing when I was around 10 years old and have been doing it since. I’ve used paints, pencils, charcoal, etc. Anything that can be used to make a picture,” Wheeler says.

The result was a moving piece of art he titled "A Baby was Found Preparing for Flight." The drawing depicts Joe Clyde in pajamas, held by an angel in the foreground of an American flag.

Wheeler hopes his art will not only touch those moved by Joe Clyde's presumed murder, he hopes it will also move the boy's parents to cooperate with law enforcement to help bring closure for all involved.

“I could not imagine what was going through Joe Clyde’s mind the moment he went missing. Then to find out about the father and mother’s reluctancy to cooperate with officials in the recovery efforts created a sense of frustration throughout the state," Wheeler says. "I wanted God to put my drawing pencil to work so I could touch the people who see it. Also, I hope it touches those who are involved in the disappearance of Joe Clyde and encourage them to cooperate with authorities and/or tell us where he is.”

In the meantime, the search for the non-verbal, autistic child's remains continues. Nearly a month and a half since he disappeared, the Dickson County Sheriff's Department has planned the largest search yet for the child. The department has called on community volunteers for a large-scale search on May 19th expected to last the entire day.

The department has also cautioned volunteers the "beautiful, blonde haired child" we have seen in photographs won't be as remembered if found. "Please make sure you can endure what you might find," the department has stated.

If Joe Clyde's body is finally found, there is now one more image Tennesseans can hold on to in his memory forever: as a baby found preparing for flight.

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