Lori Vallow Daybell guilty of murder
Lori Vallow Daybell was found guilty of murder, conspiracy and grand theft on Friday in the high profile murder case that shocked the country and took three years to unfold.
The verdict was announced just after 1 p.m. after almost seven hours of jury deliberation across two days. Former witnesses, family and friends of the victims, members of the public and reporters packed the courtroom in Boise.
Vallow Daybell, who often appeared casual in court throughout the trial, laughing and chatting with her attorneys, showed little emotion when the verdict was read. However as Boyce confirmed the verdict with the jury, she scowled, appearing to glare at each juror.
She was found guilty on six counts in a unanimous verdict that was handed to Judge Steven Boyce. Boyce says the sentencing is likely three months away.
Family, friends and witnesses, many of them law enforcement officers, who testified throughout the weekslong trial, quietly celebrated in the wake of the news, some weeping and hugging. As people filed out of the courtroom, Kay and Larry Woodcock, JJ Vallow’s grandparents, locked in an intense embrace.
“I love you,” Larry told Kay.
No more than 15 minutes after the verdict was read, Vallow Daybell was led out of the courtroom by officers.
The decision closes this chapter of the horrific crime involving allegations of obsession, infidelity, obscure end-of-days beliefs, zombies and, most tragically, the deaths of Vallow Daybell’s two children — 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old JJ Vallow — and Tammy Daybell, the spouse of Chad Daybell. Throughout the trial, prosecutors called more than 60 witnesses over a span of roughly five weeks, including law enforcement, family members and former friends who detailed the bizarre and complex world surrounding Vallow Daybell.
A cheer erupted as the Woodcocks walked out of the courthouse Friday afternoon, meeting a swarm of media and members of the public.
“They say all good things come to an end. Lori, it came to you today,” sang Larry Woodcock, in a rendition of a Willie Nelson song.
Speaking to reporters, the Woodcocks, who have been sitting in the courtroom nearly every day for weeks, thanked the prosecutors, law enforcement, media and the jury.
“I want to personally hug every one of the jurors. What they went through, what they saw, is mind boggling. I hope that nobody ever has to go through this. I hope nobody ever has to see or hear the details of what happened to JJ, to Tylee, and to Tammy,” he said.
It was a long, emotionally taxing trial for everyone involved, especially the Woodcocks, who during several witness testimonies had to look at pictures of JJ’s decomposing body. Still, Larry Woodcock directed his empathy toward law enforcement involved in the investigation.
“Those guys sacrificed (time) from their families, from their homes. We will never know the countless hours, the countless hours, that they have put in, how much sacrifice they have been going through. And most of all, what they have seen in this case. that maybe some people will never unsee,” he said.
And Kay Woodcock, closing out the news conference, made note of the date.
“Since it’s Mother’s Day ... this is what you call poetic justice,” she said.
In September 2019, Vallow Daybell’s two children were murdered and buried in a shallow grave behind the Rexburg home of Chad Daybell, the man she was believed to be having an affair with and the apparent source of her fringe beliefs.
Then in October 2019, Daybell’s wife, Tammy, was killed by what investigators said was asphyxiation in her sleep, though at the time her death was ruled natural. Just two weeks later, Lori Vallow married Chad Daybell on a beach in Hawaii.
The honeymoon didn’t last long. That December, Tammy Daybell’s body was exhumed, and Tylee and JJ were declared missing. A court ordered Vallow Daybell to produce her children by Jan. 30, 2020. When she failed to comply, she was arrested in Hawaii about four weeks later.
Then on June 9, 2020, police executed a search warrant and found the bodies of Tylee and JJ buried in Daybell’s backyard. Tylee’s remains were so mutilated that authorities were unable to determine a cause of death. And JJ, bound by duct tape and a plastic bag, was killed by asphyxiation.
Chad Daybell was arrested that day.
The Woodcocks’ concern over their grandson, who Lori later adopted, largely started the investigation into the disappearance of Tylee and JJ after they requested a welfare check for JJ. Larry Woodcock, in an emotional moment, held up his arm to show a wristband that read “justice for Tylee and JJ.”
“JJ, I love you,” he said, pausing as his voice wavered. “Paw-paw wishes you were here in other circumstances. Tylee, Paw-paw loves you. Tammy, I never met you; Tammy, you are a part of our life; Tammy, I am sorry for what happened to you. My heart hurts. My heart hurts for these three,” he said.
“It’s the most bittersweet (feeling) you can imagine. Just the sadness, but the relief from all this. It’s a liberating feeling,” Kay Woodcock said after Larry.
Public interest in the case snowballed, and the story quickly spread nationwide. With the couple relaxing in Hawaii, the country wanted to know: where are the kids? Video of East Idaho News reporter Nate Eaton confronting the couple at their beachside resort went viral, and when Vallow Daybell was arrested, reporters swarmed the small rural Idaho airport awaiting her extradition.
The neighborhood where Daybell lived still sees visitors who followed the crime, sometimes stopping by the nearby memorial to take selfies.
Filed in May 2021, the original indictment charges Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell with:
First degree murder in the death of Tylee.
First degree murder in the death of JJ.
Conspiracy to commit first degree murder and grand theft in the death of Tylee.
Conspiracy to commit first degree murder and grand theft in the death of JJ.
Conspiracy to commit first degree murder in the death of Tammy Daybell.
Vallow Daybell was also charged with grand theft for allegedly collecting social security benefits allocated to Tylee and JJ.
Chad Daybell is also charged with first degree murder in the death of Tammy Daybell — which occurred when Lori Vallow Daybell was in Hawaii — and two counts of insurance fraud. He has pleaded not guilty and will face his own trial.
Vallow Daybell’s brother, Alex Cox, was a suspected accomplice in the killings, but died from blood clots the day after Tammy Daybell’s body was exhumed.
In a statement following the verdict, the prosecution said it was unable to conduct additional interviews because of Chad Daybell’s pending trial.
“We are very pleased with the jury’s verdict, and we want to thank them, as well as the alternates, for their service over last six weeks during this trial,” the statement reads.
The indictment claims the couple “did endorse and teach religious beliefs for the purpose of justifying the homicide” of JJ, using similar language in the counts accusing them of conspiracy in Tylee and Tammy Daybell’s murder.
And throughout the last few weeks, prosecutors, through their opening and closing arguments and questions to the dozens of witnesses, showed how the couple used a skewed and extreme interpretation of teachings from the Book of Mormon to manipulate their friends, justify their crimes and pursue “money, power and sex.”
“It does not matter what they believed. It matters what they did. They can believe whatever they want. But when they use that to justify homicide, that changes. They used religion to manipulate others,” Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood told jurors Thursday during closing arguments.
Witnesses in the high-profile trial included numerous law enforcement officers, ranging from FBI agents to rural Idaho sheriff’s deputies, former friends and family, who painted a detailed and damning picture of the couple. Fixated on the belief that a second coming of Jesus Christ was imminent, Daybell would speak of past lives, telling Vallow Daybell that she had once been married to prominent religious figures, and that together they would lead a chosen group through the end times.
Also woven into their beliefs was the idea that people could be possessed by demons — these people were called “zombies,” according to texts shown as evidence, and the level of their possession was often “rated” by Daybell.
Their beliefs attracted a small group of friends, who would travel the West to religious conferences and participate in “castings” — an attempt to rid someone of demonic possession. Many of those friends testified against Vallow Daybell, describing how the teachings went from obscure but benign, to sinister. And when the couple moved to Hawaii, despite telling friends to relocate to Rexburg to prepare for end times, the sincerity of Vallow Daybell’s beliefs began to appear dubious.
“I realized that they must have taken things even further. They didn’t intend for the person to be helped — they didn’t want the person to live,” former friend Audrey Barattiero told prosecutors on May 3, speaking about the people the couple claimed had been possessed and were now zombies.
Among those thought to be possessed were Tylee and JJ, as evidenced from texts recovered from Vallow Daybell’s iCloud account, which prosecutors said show both her and Daybell eagerly awaiting their death.
“Do you think there is a perfectly orchestrated plan to take the children? And we just have to wait for it to be carried out?” she asked Daybell on Aug. 10, 2019, roughly a month before the children were murdered. “I feel lost. Like I should be doing something to help.”
“There is a plan being orchestrated for the children,” Daybell responded.
Vallow Daybell’s attorneys didn’t call any witnesses after the prosecution rested Tuesday.
“We don’t believe the state has proved its case,” said her attorney, Jim Archibald.
And on Thursday, both parties gave their closing arguments, with Wood telling the jury that Vallow Daybell was the connection between Chad Daybell and Alex Cox.
“There is one common thread throughout these murders — Lori Vallow. She is the one person who ties this all together,” Wood said. “Lori knew exactly what was going on.”
The defense, during an at times tearful closing argument from Archibald, tried to distance Vallow Daybell from the crimes, depicting her as a victim of Chad Daybell’s manipulation.
He drew parallels to cult followers in the past — “Why can’t people escape religious cult figures? ... Promises are hopeful to some people.”
He also told jurors there was no “smoking gun.” That, despite the thousands of texts and countless exhibits shown, there was nothing where she explicitly said “when are you killing Tylee?”
“There is no such text,” he said.
Wood, during his rebuttal, took issue with Archibald’s argument, laying out the pieces of evidence he believes are “overt acts” that show Vallow Daybell anticipating and encouraging the murder of her children and Tammy Daybell.
He referenced the texts between Lori Vallow Daybell, but also pointed to the fact that it was Lori, not Chad, who would often ask to calculate the “death percentages” for the kids, her decision to place JJ in Alex Cox’s custody, and her lack of concern when the kids were deemed missing.
He also listed the overt acts that implicate Alex Cox, including Google searches, cellphone GPS data and suspicious purchases — including a mask and gloves — before Tammy Daybell was shot at.