Lori Vallow Daybell’s trial began after her two children died in 2019.
Boise, Idaho • A mother accused of the triple murder of her two youngest children as well as her new husband’s former wife was ready to “remove every obstacle in her way to get what she wants,” a prosecutor told jurors Monday morning .
“The defendant used money, power and sex to get what she wanted,” said Fremont County Attorney Lindsey Black. “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 larceny in connection with the deaths of Vallow Daybell’s two youngest children: 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and his 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 will be tried separately and Chad Daybell’s trial is months away. Vallow Daybell faces life imprisonment if convicted.
The children were missing for months before their remains were found buried in Chad Daybell’s yard in east Idaho, Blake told jurors.
“Charred remains, that’s what’s left of Tylee,” the prosecutor said, showing the jury a photograph of human remains partially uncovered in a patch of earth. “You will hear it explained as a mass of bone and tissue. This is what is left of this beautiful young woman.”
JJ’s body was wrapped in garbage bags and duct tape, Blake said – the duct tape tied his arms in front of him and wrapped around his head.
The children and Chad Daybell’s former wife, Tammy Daybell, were all killed because they got in the way of the couple’s relationship, Blake said.
“Remember, the defendant will do whatever it takes to get what she wants, and she wanted Chad Daybell,” Blake said.
Defense attorney Jim Archibald presented the jury with a very different picture, describing Vallow Daybell as a “kind and loving mother to her children” who happened to have a special interest in religion and Bible prophecy about the end of the world.
“Some people are less interested in Bible prophecy, some are very interested in it,” Archibald said. “Fortunately in this country we can worship as we wish.”
Vallow Daybell is presumed innocent, Archibald reminded the jury, saying the indictments themselves – which accuse Vallow Daybell of either directing, encouraging, assisting or taking part in the killings – show prosecutors don’t really know what’s going on in the case has happened.
“Did she kill, or did she help, or did she encourage, or did she direct? You’re not sure,’ said Archibald.
“If there is a lack of evidence, the statute of law is 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 that Vallow Daybell’s religious beliefs only began to change after she met Chad Daybell, a religious author whose fictional books focused on the apocalypse and were loosely based on the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But Blake said those beliefs went to extremes, with the couple saying people are “dark” or “light” and telling friends and acquaintances that “dark” people have been taken over by evil spirits. They eventually began teaching their friends that once these evil spirits were strong enough, the person became a “zombie” and the only way to free that person’s soul was to kill them.
Friends of Vallow Daybell will testify that she said the children and Tammy Daybell were “dark” before her death, Blake said. At least one of those friends told police that Vallow Daybell called both children “zombies” before disappearing, according to police records.
“The common theme was that the body must 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 continued to collect and spend the children’s Social Security and survivor benefits after her death. Tylee’s father died after he and Vallow Daybell divorced years ago. JJ’s father, Charles Vallow — to whom Vallow Daybell was married when she met Chad Daybell — was shot and killed by Vallow Daybell’s brother, Alex Cox.
Vallow Daybell faces arraignment in Arizona in connection with the death of Charles Vallow but has not yet entered a plea bargain.
Idaho law enforcement began investigating the couple in November 2019 after extended family members reported the children missing. During that time, 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 found Tammy Daybell was killed by asphyxiation, Blake said Monday.
The couple “removed every obstacle standing in their way of getting exactly what they wanted,” she said.
The process is expected to take up to eight weeks.