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Idaho jury convicts Chad Daybell of 3 murders

BOISE, Idaho >> Investigators for years have believed that Chad and Lori Vallow Daybell conspired to kill two of her children, along with Chad Daybell’s first wife. The lengthy criminal case is one step closer to ending after an Ada County jury convicted 55-year-old Chad Daybell for the murders today.

Now, that same jury will decide whether the Rexburg man should be sentenced to death.

Chad Daybell was convicted on eight felonies, including the first-degree murders of his then-wife Tammy Daybell and Vallow Daybell’s two youngest children: 7-year-old JJ Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan. He was also convicted on three counts of conspiracy to commit murder and two counts of insurance fraud for increasing Tammy Daybell’s life insurance coverage.

“What Chad and Lori can’t take from us is our memories,” JJ’s grandfather Larry Woodcock told reporters Thursday. “They can’t take that. They can’t destroy it. They can’t erase it. Our memories are what we have.”

The 12-person jury reached the verdict after roughly six hours of deliberation — shorter than it took the jurors to find Lori Vallow Daybell guilty. Lori Vallow Daybell was convicted on six felony counts in May 2023 and sentenced to life in prison.

Chad Daybell will now face an additional week or two of additional evidence where the same jurors, who have been sequestered, will decide whether he should be sentenced to death. That phase of the case began Thursday afternoon and will continue Friday.

In August 2019, Vallow Daybell moved to Rexburg, Idaho, from Arizona just months after her fourth husband was shot and killed. In the months that followed, her children went missing, and Tammy Daybell died in her home.

Tammy’s death wasn’t initially investigated, but her body was exhumed two months later. Utah Chief Medical Examiner performed an autopsy and ruled her death a homicide.

Following a lengthy investigation, the Rexburg Police Department discovered the bodies of JJ and Tylee in June 2020. Tylee’s burned and dismembered remains and JJ’s bound body were buried in shallow graves on Chad Daybell’s eastern Idaho property.

Authorities have said they believe Vallow Daybell’s brother Alex Cox — who acted as her “protector” — killed or conspired to kill Tylee, JJ and Tammy Daybell, according to witness testimony. During both trials, evidence presented to the jury showed that Cox’s cellphone was on Chad Daybell’s property on the days the children were killed, and that he attempted to fire a gun at Tammy Daybell.

The jury didn’t have to prove Chad Daybell physically committed the killings to be convicted, Fremont County Prosecuting Attorney Lindsey Blake said during the prosecution’s closing arguments Wednesday. The jury must only believe he advised, assisted, encouraged, commanded or coerced someone to do it — someone like Cox.

“Alex does what Chad asks of him,” Blake said.

A member of The Church of Latter-day Saints, Chad Daybell believed he received personal revelations from God that told him certain people — including Vallow Daybell’s children and Tammy Daybell — were possessed by dark spirits and would need to be “cast out,” or killed, according to witness testimony. The prosecution accused the Daybells of using religion as a tool to manipulate others, including Cox, saying in the indictment that they espoused religious beliefs “for the purpose of justifying” or encouraging the homicides.

“No one here is charged because of their religious beliefs,” Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood said during Vallow Daybell’s trial. “They are charged for using those religious beliefs for the purpose of murder.”

CHAD DAYBELL NOW FACES DEATH PENALTY

The Daybells, who had a monthslong affair before getting married, were expected to be tried together last year, but 7th District Judge Steven Boyce severed their cases because of new DNA evidence.

Boyce removed the death penalty as an option for Lori Vallow Daybell just before her 2023 trial in an unprecedented move. The decision came after prosecutors filed large volumes of evidence past deadlines, which could have impeded the defense’s ability to prepare for trial. Boyce said he wanted to make sure Vallow Daybell’s constitutional rights were protected.

“I’m happy it’s over, and it’s 99.9% over — there’s one stage left,” Woodcock said outside the courthouse. “And I will say this: Whatever sentence the court and the jurors decided on, I will absolutely live with it.”

Samuel Newton, associate professor of law at the University of Idaho, told the Idaho Statesman in a phone interview that the death penalty phase typically takes a few weeks. It will be the defense team’s job to humanize Chad Daybell during this part of the case, Newton said, adding that it’ll likely bring in a mitigation specialist who investigated Daybell’s entire life, looking for anything that could help his case, such as any mental health issues or generational trauma.

Throughout the trial, Daybell’s attorney, John Prior, argued that he was innocent, but now he’ll need to pivot and instead prove that Chad Daybell doesn’t deserve the death penalty, which Newton called a “conflated strategy.”

“These are just tough choices, that the defense has to figure out how they’re going to do it,” Newton said, adding that it’s common for the defendant to continue to proclaim his innocence.

The jurors were briefly brought back into the courtroom Thursday following the verdict. Boyce read several instructions to the jury and reminded them that the prosecution must prove at least one aggravating factor to sentence Chad Daybell to death. Under Idaho law, some of those factors could include:

—The defendant committed more than one murder at the time of the crime.

—The murder was “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel, manifesting exceptional depravity.”

—The defendant “exhibited utter disregard” for human life.

“They’re going to look for his history of dangerous behavior or things that would indicate that he deserves the death penalty,” Newton said.

The jurors will be back at the Ada County Courthouse at 8:30 a.m. Friday.


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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