Money, power, sex: Attorney says slain kids' mum used all 3

The children were missing for months before their remains were found buried in Chad Daybell's eastern Idaho yard, prosecutor tells jurors

By AP

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A boy looks at a memorial for Tylee Ryan and Joshua 'JJ' Vallow in Rexburg, Idaho, on June 11, 2020. — AP file
A boy looks at a memorial for Tylee Ryan and Joshua "JJ" Vallow in Rexburg, Idaho, on June 11, 2020. — AP file

Published: Mon 10 Apr 2023, 10:40 PM

A mother accused in the triple murder of her two youngest children as well as her new husband's previous wife was willing to “remove any obstacle in her way to get what she wants,” a prosecutor told jurors on Monday morning.

“The defendant used money, power and sex to get what she wanted," Fremont County Prosecutor Lindsey Black said. "It didn’t matter what it was.”


Prosecutors charged Lori Vallow Daybell and her husband, Chad Daybell, with multiple counts of conspiracy, murder and grand theft in connection with the deaths of Vallow Daybell’s two youngest children: 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and big sister Tylee Ryan, who was last seen a few days before her 17th birthday in 2019. Prosecutors also charged the couple in connection with the October 2019 death of Chad Daybell’s late wife, Tammy Daybell.

Both defendants have pleaded not guilty, but they are being tried separately and Chad Daybell's trial is still months away. Vallow Daybell faces up to life in prison if convicted.


The children were missing for months before their remains were found buried in Chad Daybell's eastern Idaho yard, Blake told jurors.

“Charred remains, that's what was left of Tylee,” the prosecutor said, showing jurors a photo of human remains partially uncovered in a patch of dirt. “You will hear it explained as a mass of bone and tissue. That's what was left of this beautiful young woman.”

JJ's body was wrapped in trash bags and duct tape, Blake said — the tape binding his arms in front of him and wrapping around his head.

Lori Vallow Daybell glances at the camera during her hearing in Rexburg, Idaho., on March 6, 2020. — AP file
Lori Vallow Daybell glances at the camera during her hearing in Rexburg, Idaho., on March 6, 2020. — AP file

The kids and Chad Daybell's previous wife Tammy Daybell were all killed because they stood in the way of the couple's relationship, Blake said.

“Remember, the defendant will remove any obstacle in her way to get what she wants, and she wanted Chad Daybell,” Blake said.

Defense attorney Jim Archibald presented jurors with a far different picture, describing Vallow Daybell as a “kind and loving mother to her children” who happened to have a particular interest in religion and Biblical prophesies involving the end of the world.

“Some people care less about Biblical prophesies, some people care a lot about it,” Archibald said. “Thankfully in this country, we get to worship as we choose.”

Vallow Daybell is presumed innocent, Archibald reminded jurors, and said the criminal charges themselves — which accuse Vallow Daybell of either directing, encouraging, assisting or participating in the murders — show that prosecutors don't really know what happened in the case.

“Did she kill, or did she assist, or did she encourage, or did she direct? They aren’t sure,” Archibald said.

“When there is a lack of evidence, the law calls it not guilty,” he later told the jury. “You said you would be fair and impartial … you said you would find her not guilty.”

Archibald also said Vallow Daybell's religious beliefs only began to change after she met Chad Daybell, a religious author whose fictional books focused on the apocolypse and were loosely based on the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

But Blake said those beliefs veered toward the extreme, with the couple saying people were “dark” or “light,” telling friends and acquaintences that “dark" people had been taken over by evil spirits. They eventually began teaching friends that once those evil spirits were strong enough, the person became a “zombie,” and the only way to free that person's soul was by killing them.

Friends of Vallow Daybell will testify that she said the children and Tammy Daybell were “dark” before their deaths, Blake said. At least one of those friends told police that Vallow Daybell called both children “zombies” before they disappeared, according to police records.

“The common theme was the body has to be destroyed," Blake said. "The defendant and Chad used their self-proclaimed religious teachings to justify their actions to others — their actions from affair to murder.”

Prosecutors say the couple planned to use the life insurance money from Tammy Daybell's death, and that Vallow Daybell kept collecting and spending the children's social security and survivor benefits after they died. Tylee's father died after he and Vallow Daybell divorced years earlier. JJ's father Charles Vallow — who Vallow Daybell was married to when she met Chad Daybell — was shot and killed by Vallow Daybell's brother, Alex Cox.

Vallow Daybell is charged in Arizona in connection with Charles Vallow's death, but has not yet entered a plea.

Idaho law enforcement officers started investigating the couple in November 2019 after extended family members reported the children missing. During that period, police say the couple lied about the children’s whereabouts. The children’s bodies were found buried on Chad Daybell’s property in rural Idaho.

The couple married two weeks after Chad Daybell’s previous wife died unexpectedly. An autopsy showed that Tammy Daybell was killed by asphyxiation, Blake said Monday.

The couple had eliminated “any and every obstacle that was in their way of getting exactly what they wanted,” she said.

The trial is expected to last up to eight weeks.



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