An Idaho man has pleaded not guilty to the murder of his first wife and two stepchildren from his second marriage, exactly one year after the children’s bodies were found buried in his backyard.
Chad Daybell, 52, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in a Freemont County court to all charges relating to the 2019 death of 7-year-old JJ Vallow; Tylee Ryan, 17; and his ex-wife, Tammy Daybell.
His pleas came a day after his wife, Lori Vallow-Daybell – the mother of the two deceased children – was held in a mental institution by a judge for 90 days in hopes of making her fit to stand trial. At the end of last month, the court ruled her unfit to stand trial for the murder of her children, for which she also faces charges.
Daybell had no obvious emotional reaction when he presented his pleas. He faces life imprisonment or the death penalty if convicted of the most serious charges.
He was arrested shortly after the children’s bodies were found on his Freemont County property on June 9, 2020, ending an approximately eight-month search involving authorities in several states.
The children’s grandmother, Kay Woodcock, was present in the courtroom during the Daybell hearing and expressed her disappointment at Daybell’s pleas.
“He’s a liar,” she told East Idaho News. “How do you have two children in your garden and you don’t know?” “
Daybell had married the mother of the children a few weeks after the mysterious death of his first wife in October 2019. As authorities began to investigate the plight of the children, the couple moved to Hawaii, where Vallow-Daybell was ultimately arrested for charges related to the disappearance of his children.
Prosecutors accused the couple of justifying the killings by their religious beliefs. It was alleged that the couple believed Tammy Daybell had been possessed by a spirit. A friend of Vallow-Daybell also claimed that she believed her children had turned into zombies and that the only way to rid a person of a dark spirit was to kill them.
Daybell is an end of the world Christian author who has written several books on the end of the world and the Christian belief in Christ’s return to Earth.
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up to become a Founding Member and help shape the next chapter of HuffPost