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Idaho jury decides Chad Daybell should be put to death for murders

Jun 1, 2024, 12:51 PM

Image: Chad Daybell sits at the defense table after the jury's verdict in his murder trial was read...

Chad Daybell sits at the defense table after the jury's verdict in his murder trial was read at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise, Idaho, on Thursday, May 30, 2024. Daybell was sentenced to death for the murder of his wife and girlfriend’s two youngest children on Saturday, June 1. (Pool photo: Kyle Green via AP)

(Pool photo: Kyle Green via AP)

BOISE — The jury that convicted Chad Guy Daybell of three murders said Saturday he should be put to death for the crimes.

Daybell was found guilty Thursday of murdering Tammy Daybell, his wife of 29 years, and Tylee Ryan, 16, and Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, the children of his currently incarcerated wife, Lori Vallow Daybell.

During a recess, the court reviewed the jury’s recommendation and found that the death penalty was not unjust, and issued the death penalty for each of the deaths.

The three killings spanned a matter of weeks in 2019, starting with Tylee, who was last seen alive on Sept. 19 of that year, just days before JJ was last seen on Sept. 23, 2019. Tammy Daybell was dead in her bedroom on Oct. 19, 2019.

Additional coverage from KSL TV in Salt Lake City: More on the Chad Daybell trial

Those weeks Chad and Lori Daybell spent removing what they called “obstacles” to their union in texts between them leave the currently married couple facing the remainder of their lives apart. Lori Daybell was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 2023.

As sentencing deliberations started Friday, the jury heard opening arguments for the new phase of the trial from the prosecution and the defense. Chad Daybell elected not to speak to the jury during his trial or before sentencing deliberations but after the legal teams opened, family members of the victims did speak, telling the court they were angry, devastated, and unable to find peace. Some of those in court Friday were also emotional during the legal teams’ arguments.

With his life on the line and people he knows well expressing anguish over the killings, Chad Daybell displayed little or no emotion during the sentencing phase or at any point before that in his trial.

In the sentencing phase, the defense painted Chad Daybell as a small-town religious and family man who wasn’t experienced with the world or women, in contrast to Lori Daybell, who was married four times before meeting him.

Lori Daybell was extradited to Arizona in November, where she faces two charges of conspiracy to commit murder related to the death of her fourth husband, Charles Vallow, and an alleged attempt to kill her former nephew-in-law.

Previous coverage: Idaho mom Lori Vallow Daybell sentenced in deaths of 2 children and her romantic rival

In contrast to the defense’s characterization of Chad Daybell, the prosecution said he has shown a propensity to murder and would probably constitute a further danger to society if he were ever free. The prosecution said there were aggravating circumstances surrounding the murders, including the crimes being heinous, his continued danger to society and the killings being motivated by finances.

The jury unanimously agreed the aggravating circumstances of the murders elevated it to a death penalty case.

Witnesses included statements from Tammy Daybell’s family, who stated in court that they have stayed out of the spotlight to keep potential connections with Tammy Daybell’s children open. They said they were hurt that the adult children sided with their father instead of their slain mother but hoped to heal family wounds.

“Tammy’s murder is the direct cause of our suffering, pain, fractured relationships, and unhealed wounds are all part of the aftermath. This is the legacy of anguish and sorrow that will haunt our family for generations,” said Tammy Daybell’s sister, Kelsie Douglas.

“We want to thank everyone who put in countless hours of work to get where we are today; law enforcement, the prosecution, the media, and all of you who watched and listened to the trial and prayed for us,” read a statement from The Tammy Douglas Daybell Foundation. “We are grateful for the relationships we have created through this horrible time and the support and love we were able to give each other. I also want to thank my Aunt Vicki who was sitting in court almost every day of this trial for those of us who weren’t able to do so, that took great strength to do. We can all start to heal from the terrible losses we have suffered. We will miss Tammy every single day of our lives but we have some comfort knowing we will see her again. If you have been touched by Tammy and would like to support her foundation, The Tammy Douglas Daybell foundation, to put books into the hands of children and increase literacy, please consider donating to The Tammy Douglas Daybell foundation. Thank you.

Lori Daybell’s son Colby Ryan, who has testified in court and spoke to media before the trial said he has lost not only the slain victims but his mother, who committed the crimes.

“I stand here today motherless, fatherless, sisterless, and brotherless,” Ryan said. He was fighting tears, as were jurors, during his statement. “It’s not an overstatement to say I lost everything.”

The charges against Chad Guy Daybell

The jury found Chad Daybell guilty of the following charges:

  1. Conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft by deception — for Tylee Ryan
  2. First-degree murder — for Tylee Ryan
  3. Conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft by deception — for Joshua Jaxon “JJ” Vallow
  4. First-degree murder — for Joshua Jaxon “JJ” Vallow
  5. Conspiracy to commit first-degree murder — for Tammy Daybell
  6. First-degree murder — for Tammy Daybell
  7. Insurance fraud — for a life insurance policy on Tammy Daybell
  8. Insurance fraud — for Tammy Daybell

History of the case

Chad Daybell met then Lori Vallow at a “Preparing A People” conference in St. George, Utah, on Oct. 26, 2018. By February 2019 she was moving toward divorce from her now late husband Charles Vallow. By July of the same year, Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow were texting on a personal level that investigators described as like “a romance novel.” Prosecutors said the case was about “money, power and sex.”

On June 9, 2020, the remains of Tylee and JJ were found in Chad Daybell’s backyardresulting in his arrest. A grand jury indicted Lori Daybell and Chad Daybell on May 24, 2021, with conspiracy and first-degree murder. Originally, the state wanted to try the cases together, but Lori Daybell, after she was found competent, did not waive her right to a speedy trial, while Chad Daybell did.

The cases were split and on April 3, 2023, Lori Daybell’s trial started after several evaluations to test her competency. Chad Daybell’s triple murder case started on April 1.

How the two trials were different

In Lori Daybell’s trial, the defense called no witnesses, while Chad Daybell’s legal team put his adult children on the stand as well as a forensic pathologist, a DNA expert, and a forensics expert.

That state announced it would seek the death penalty in the case. Lori Daybell, however, had to be approved competent twice to stand trial after a May 2021 mental health evaluation found she was not competent.

Her legal team, in court records, called her mental health “extremely complex and fragile.” Judge Steven Boyce first found she was competent in November 2022. Prosecutors initially opposed and then withdrew opposition to the report.

No witness spoke on behalf of Lori Daybell during her trial. Her son, Colby Ryan, spoke about what he had lost at her sentencing hearing and in her trial. A call of his played in the court, where he told her she ripped out the hearts of everyone in their family.

In contrast, Chad Daybell’s children spoke on his behalf and testified that their mother was sick before her death, said she was not killed at all, and claimed responsibility for a Google search brought up by the prosecution in the trial.

“There’s no asphyxiation here, folks…This was not a homicide,” attorney John Prior said in closing arguments.

Lori Daybell was not accused of participating in the burial of JJ or Tylee. During the trial, when the remains were shown to the courtroom and the jury, she asked to be excused from the court. Judge Steven Boyce denied that request.

Chad Daybell’s defense team blamed Alex Cox for the murders. He also mentioned friends of Lori Daybell by name in closing arguments, stating they were present for the killings but said the accused was not present.

Prior also blamed others by name for the killings, including Lori Daybell.

“Alex Cox murdered Tylee Ryan. Lori Vallow knew what was going on,” Prior said. He also said Chad Daybell was the target, and Lori Daybell intended to collect life insurance money for him.

Chad Daybell did not testify in his own defense or speak in the sentencing phase except to confirm to the judge that he elected not to speak. Vallow Daybell released a statement at her sentencing hearing and said no one was murdered in the case. She said she knows her children are happy and busy.

“I know my friend Tammy Daybell is happy,” Lori Daybell said.

After her statement in 2023, Boyd addressed Lori Daybell.

“While you were enjoying your life in Hawaii, countless law enforcement officers, family members, and volunteers were searching for your children. I don’t think to this day you have any remorse for the effort or heartache you caused others,” Boyce said. “They were found dead, burned, mutilated, dismembered and buried like animals.”

Larry D. Curtis has been the executive producer of digital content for KSL TV in Salt Lake City since 2021. You can read more of his stories here

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Idaho jury decides Chad Daybell should be put to death for murders