In or around September 2019, Lori Vallow Daybell murdered her children, an Ada County, Idaho jury determined Friday.
On a third charge of conspiracy to commit murder, for the death of her husband’s first wife, Tammy Daybell, who died in October 2019, Vallow was also found guilty.
Vallow was also convicted of grand larceny.
The jury received the case late Thursday afternoon and had to determine its own schedule and the schedule of when it would deliberate, a prosecution spokesperson told Law&Crime. Jurors returned home around 6:30 p.m. mountain standard time and returned Friday morning, resuming deliberations at 9 a.m. local time.
After six hours and 50 minutes of deliberation, 12 jurors decided Vallow’s fate. The timestamp for their decision was 11:45 a.m. Mountain Standard Time.
Vallow and her fifth and current husband, Chad Daybell, 54, are charged with murder in the 2019 deaths of 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ashlyn Ryan. The children disappeared on different dates in September of the same year. Vallow was originally arrested in Hawaii in February 2020 for child abandonment. Daybell was arrested in June 2020 after the children’s bodies were found buried on his property. The two defendants were charged with the murder of Vallow’s children and Daybell’s first wife, Tammy Daybell, 49, in May 2021 on multiple counts of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder in first degree and grand theft by deception.
Originally prosecuted as husband and wife co-defendants, their cases have been separated and Daybell will be tried separately at a later date.
An abbreviated case
The trial itself was relatively quick.
Under the supervision of Seventh District Judge Steven Boyce, who, well before the start of the trial, explained to prospective jurors that the complicated case was expected to last up to eight weeks, the proceedings ended in just under three weeks in total.
The state called 60 witnesses to plead their case against the since-convicted killer. The defense team, consisting of attorneys John Thomas and Jim Archibald, did not call exactly anyone to take the stand.
During the state presentation, cross-examination moved quickly — surprising many forensic observers — as the defense largely focused on efforts to challenge credentials or backgrounds. witnesses instead of what they actually testified under oath.
The first pleadings began in the case on Monday, April 10; the last day of testimony was Tuesday, May 9. Several days of testimony were even cut short, for various reasons – including personal tragedy. But testimony was cut short at least once, the court noted, because things were moving much faster than expected and some of the witnesses’ prior scheduling had to be maintained.
Zombies and faith
Vallow and Daybell met at an apocalyptic conference in 2018. There they came to believe that they had married in a past life. Other non-doctrinaire beliefs not typical of their Mormon upbringing included the idea that people emit energies that can be categorized as light and dark. Those on the darker end of the spectrum, according to the couple, are possessed by evil spirits and essentially become zombies.
In the fall of 2019, according to prosecutors, the couple came to think of JJ Vallow, Tylee Ryan and Tammy Daybell as zombified.
During the trial, the Ada County Coroner said JJ Vallow died of asphyxiation from a plastic bag and Tylee Ryan died of homicide by unknown means. It was the first time that the causes of the children’s deaths had been made public.
The body of the young special needs boy was found wrapped in duct tape with the plastic bag that presumably killed him still above his head. The teenager’s body was dismembered and burned beyond recognition – witnesses said they found clumps of human blood mixed with green plastic. Ryan’s tissues and bones were part of a bucket used to haul his body parts in the dirt.
Vallow and her husband are also accused of collecting social security benefits from her son and daughter between October 2019 and January 2020 – long after they were both shot and buried shallow in crude circumstances, adjacent to and part of the Pet Cemetery, under the Daybell Rural Estate in Salem, Idaho.
“You are not lawyers,” Judge Boyce told the jurors before the start of the closing arguments. “You are judges.”
Vallow faces a life sentence. The defendant initially faced the death penalty. In a pretrial victory for the defense, however, Boyce took the prospect of capital punishment off the table.
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