Idaho jury begins deliberations in sentencing of Chad Daybell, who faces possible death penalty for 3 murders

A day after delivering a guilty verdict in Chad Daybell’s murder trial, an Idaho jury on Friday deliberated for six hours whether he will face the death penalty for killing his first wife and two of his second wife’s children.

Daybell was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder and conspiracy charges in the deaths of his first wife, Tammy Daybell, and two of his second wife’s children – 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow – in a case prosecutors claim was fueled by power, sex, money and apocalyptic spiritual beliefs.

The sentencing phase of Daybell’s trial began shortly after the guilty verdict was delivered, with state Judge Steven Boyce giving jurors preliminary instructions.

Jurors began deliberating his fate Friday afternoon after hearing victim impact statements and contrasting portraits of the man from lawyers before going home for the night shortly before 8 p.m. MT. Jurors will continue deliberations Saturday at 9 a.m. MT, according to the Ada County Courthouse.

In his opening statement to the jury on Friday, prosecutor Rob Wood asked them to consider aggravating factors that would make Daybell eligible for the death penalty.

First, the three murders, he said, were committed for remuneration. Daybell was also convicted of insurance fraud stemming from life insurance policies that allegedly paid him money after his first wife’s death. His second wife, as well as Daybell, also were convicted of grand theft because she continued to draw Social Security benefits for her children after their deaths.

Additionally, Wood told the jury, the murders of the three victims were “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel, manifesting exceptional depravity.”

“This defendant exhibited utter disregard for human life,” Wood added. “The defendant, by his conduct, whether such conduct was before, during or after the commission of the murders at hand, has exhibited a propensity to commit murder, which will probably constitute a continuing threat to society.”

The prosecutor concluded, “It is your decision whether one or more of these aggravators has been proven. And if it has been, you must decide if, under these circumstances, imposition of the death penalty would be just or unjust.”

The verdict came about a year after Daybell’s second wife, Lori Vallow Daybell, was also convicted of the murder of her children and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. She was also convicted of conspiring to kill Tammy Daybell. Vallow Daybell has appealed her convictions to the state Supreme Court, with her legal team raising the issue of whether she was mentally competent to stand trial.

Authorities have said they believe Tylee and JJ were killed in September 2019 – the month they were last reported to have been seen – and that Tammy Daybell was found dead in her Idaho home on October 19, 2019, a few weeks before Chad Daybell married Vallow Daybell.

Addressing the jury Friday, defense lawyer John Prior portrayed Daybell as a once “quiet, reserved, shy young man” who grew up in Springville, Utah, a small, tight knit “town of faith.” Daybell, his lawyer said, met his first wife, Tammy, and they were married for 29 years, raising five “wonderful” children “very deep in their faith, very deep in their commitment to family.”

But Daybell’s life changed in late 2018, Prior said, when he met Vallow Daybell, who had already been married multiple times.

“Everything that glitters is not gold,” he told jurors. “Lori Vallow glittered. She was not gold. She was the trajectory that changed the plan… Chaos hits and all of these things start cascading and this thing becomes very complicated and difficult.”

Prior said the new relationship with Vallow was like “this bomb dropped” on the life of “the small town boy from Springville.”

“We have to look back at that,” he said. “You examine what Chad Daybell’s past was prior to the bomb being dropped, the Lori Vallow bomb being dropped… If it wasn’t for that trajectory coming in and changing the path, is this where we would be going? It’s not where we’d be going.”

‘There’s a hole in my heart’

Jurors also heard from relatives of the victims on Friday.

“It makes me angry and it destroys me to know Tammy was treated how she was,” Tammy Daybell’s father, Ron Douglas, told jurors. “I find it comforting to know that Tammy is resting peacefully in Utah, buried alone and near her beloved mother.”

Kay Woodcock spoke about her grandson JJ and her step niece Tylee.

“I sit here today and try and explain the immense pain that me and everyone in my family continues to endure daily,” she said. “But how do I do that?”

“I can tell you there have been too many situations in the past few years where we were slammed with the fact that JJ won’t hit another milestone,” she said of her grandson. “The constant question remains: Who would he have become? What kind of man would he have been?”

Woodcock remembered Tylee as “the most precious, blond-haired, blue-eyed little girl” and an “absolute mama’s girl.”

Woodcock added, breaking into tears: “There’s a hole in my heart, in the hearts of every member of my family, that can never be filled and will remain for the rest of my life.”

Tylee’s aunt, Annie Cushing, remembered her walking around the house singing with “the voice of an angel.”

“Tylee had her whole life ahead of her. She had dignity, she had dreams, she had goals. This defendant stole all of that,” Cushing said.

Kelsee Douglas, Tammy’s sister-in-law, told jurors that “pain, fractured relationships and unhealed wounds are all part of the aftermath” of the murders.

“This is the legacy of anguish and sorrow that will haunt our family for generations,” she added.

Tammy’s brother, Michael Douglas, lamented that “the nightmare fodder I have been provided will last me a lifetime.”

Daybell declined to address the court after the victim impact statements.

Law enforcement found the remains of Tylee and JJ on Chad Daybell’s Fremont County property in June 2020, authorities said.

“It’s a sad day. JJ would have been 12 years old,” JJ’s grandfather, Larry Woodcock, said after the verdict Thursday.

Woodcock remembered the victims, and asked the same question, over and over.

“What did they accomplish? Nothing. What did they do? They destroyed families,” Woodcock said of Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell.

But the defendants, Larry Woodcock said, could not destroy the memories relatives have of the victims. “They can’t take that,” he added, growing emotional at one point. When he heard the jury verdict in court, he said, he felt like he couldn’t breathe.

Larry Woodcock, JJ Vallow's grandfather, gets a hug after the verdict in the Chad Daybell murder trial was read at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise, Idaho, on Thursday. - Kyle Green/AP
Larry Woodcock, JJ Vallow's grandfather, gets a hug after the verdict in the Chad Daybell murder trial was read at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise, Idaho, on Thursday. - Kyle Green/AP

‘Sex, money and power’ were key focuses in the trial

During opening statements, the prosecutor and defense attorney painted contrasting portraits of the defendant.

The state described him as a power-hungry and grandiose man who would stop at nothing for “what he considered his rightful destiny.” His defense lawyer portrayed Daybell as a religious man driven into an unfortunate relationship by a “beautiful, vivacious woman” who knew “how to get what she wants.”

“Two dead children buried in the defendant Chad Daybell’s backyard,” Wood said in his first words to the jury at the start of trial.

“The next month his wife is found dead in their marital bed. Seventeen days after the death of his wife, Tammy Daybell, this defendant is photographed laughing and dancing on a beach in Hawaii at his wedding to Lori Vallow, a woman who was his mistress and the mother of the children buried in the graves on his property. Three dead bodies.”

When Daybell “had a chance at what he considered his rightful destiny,” Wood said, he “made sure that no person and no law would stand in his way.”

“His desire for sex, money and power led him to pursue those ambitions,” the prosecutor added. “And this pursuit led to the deaths of his wife and Lori’s two innocent children.”

Tammy Daybell was initially believed to have died in her sleep, and Chad Daybell remarried less than three weeks after her death in 2019.

Prior said Daybell’s life began to change after he met Vallow Daybell, a “beautifully stunning woman” who “starts giving him a lot of attention” and eventually lured him into an “inappropriate” and “unfortunate” extramarital relationship.

Vallow Daybell’s two children from a previous marriage were last seen on different days in September 2019. Tylee Ryan was a “normal, vibrant teenage girl” who loved her friends and her little brother, JJ, was on the autism spectrum and required special care, according to Wood.

In late November 2019, relatives asked police in Rexburg, Idaho, to do a welfare check on JJ because they hadn’t talked to him recently. Police didn’t find him at the family’s house but did see Vallow Daybell and Daybell, who said JJ was staying with a family friend in Arizona, according to authorities.

When police returned with a search warrant the next day, the couple was gone. They were ultimately found in Hawaii in January 2020.

In June 2020, law enforcement officials found the remains of Tylee and JJ on Daybell’s property in Fremont County, Idaho. Vallow Daybell and Daybell were indicted on murder charges in May 2021.

Tylee was believed to have been killed between September 8 and 9, 2019, and JJ between September 22 and 23, according to prosecutors.

“We are filled with unfathomable sadness that these two bright stars were stolen from us, and only hope that they died without pain or suffering,” the families of the children said in a statement after the remains were found.

CNN’s Taylor Romine and Dalia Faheid contributed to this report.

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