Start of the trial of Lori Vallow Daybell, mother accused of having killed her children
In a murder case that has captivated the nation, the trial of Lori Vallow Daybell, the Idaho woman accused of killing her two youngest children and her husband’s ex-wife nearly three years ago , is about to begin.
Jury selection is due to begin Monday, in a trial that has already been postponed twice for several reasons, including to test Daybell’s competence. This surreal saga has sparked a lot of speculation and has even been the subject of a Netflix docuseries.
VallDaybell and her husband, Chad Daybell, have pleaded not guilty to a litany of charges including murder, conspiracy and grand larceny in the 2020 deaths of 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan, 16 years old.
The pair are also accused of killing Chad Daybell’s former wife, Tammy Daybell, who died unexpectedly in October 2019, about two weeks before Chad Daybell married Vallow Daybell.
Prosecutors say Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell practiced doomsday and doomsday religious beliefs as part of a plan to kill the children and Tammy Daybell. Prosecutors also allege the strategy was part of a conspiracy to steal Social Security funds and insurance money.
No trial date has been set for Chad Daybell as a judge separated his case from Vallow Daybell after new evidence was submitted regarding DNA testing. The Daybells could face life in prison or, in the case of Chad Daybell, the death penalty if convicted.
“This trial is definitely going to be a spectacle for sure, and even more so if Lori (Vallow Daybell) speaks up,” said John Delatorre, a forensic psychologist and disaster specialist in Arizona and Texas. “I’m interested to see the evidence that the prosecution will deny the delusional thinking Lori engaged in.”
The sordid and twisted story of Vallow Daybell
Idaho police began investigating Vallow Daybell and her husband after JJ’s grandmother and other family members said they had not heard from their two grandchildren. for months and reported them missing in November 2019.
Police later said the children were last seen in Rexburg, Idaho on September 23, 2019. The couple refused to cooperate with the investigation and quickly left Idaho and fled to Hawaii in December 2019. The couple also announced that the children were missing and potentially in danger.
Police said Vallow Daybell knew where the children were. Authorities would begin a search for the couple and order them to produce the children. The couple were found in Kaua’i, Hawaii, in January 2020, without the children. The couple was extradited to Idaho.
The children’s bodies were later found buried on Daybell’s property in rural eastern Idaho in June 2020.
“We are filled with unfathomable sadness that these two shining stars were stolen from us and only hope they died without pain or suffering,” said a statement attributed to JJ’s biological grandparents, Larry and Kay Woodcock, East Idaho News reported.
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Prosecutors: Vallow Daybell, her husband had spiritual beliefs involving ‘zombies’ and doomsday predictions
The couple promoted strange religious beliefs, prosecutors say. Friends also told law enforcement investigators that Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell believed people could be taken over by dark spirits.
At one point, a friend of the couple, Melanie Gibb, told investigators that Vallow Daybell referred to her children as “zombies”, a term the couple allegedly used to describe possessed people.
Prosecutors argued that the couple adopted apocalyptic beliefs to encourage or justify their murders.
Vallow Daybell’s trial was first postponed to 2021 after she was found unfit to stand trial. She was committed to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare for treatment.
About 10 months later, Vallow Daybell was found competent after a second trial was postponed to await results to determine if she was mentally fit to stand trial.
Now that the trial is about to begin, Vallow Daybell’s legal team has asked the judge to block most family members from watching parts of his trial, according to KTVB-TV.
Vallow Daybell’s defense attorney, Jim Archibald, specifically pointed out that Kay Woodcock, JJ Vallow’s grandmother, is expected to attend the trial and may be called as a witness.
Archibald argues that Woodcock is “not a grandmother” and does not fall under Idaho’s state code that any immediate family is considered a victim of homicide, the news outlet reported.
“(Grandmother) is a name she gave herself,” Archibald told District Court Judge Boyce of Woodcock. “His son has terminated parental rights, he is not a grandmother.”
But prosecutors say Woodcock and her husband meet the state’s definition of immediate family members.
Boyce has already issued an order prohibiting witnesses from attending other people’s testimony to potentially avoid trouble. The judge will also soon make a decision on the immediate family issue.
Vallow Daybell is not facing the death penalty
Vallow Daybell will not face the death penalty if convicted at trial, Boyce said last month.
Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty for Vallow Daybell and her husband, Chad Daybell. Vallow Daybell’s lawyers argued they had not had enough time to review the evidence recently submitted by the prosecution.
The judge agreed, according to the Associated Press. The judge said Vallow Daybell had not waived his right to a speedy trial, so the proceedings could not be postponed to give his defense team enough time to consider the new evidence.
The death penalty still applies to Chad Daybell’s case.
And that request for the death penalty could make a difference for Chad Daybell if prosecutors could cut a deal with him in exchange for a possibly lesser sentence if he’s found guilty, said Delatorre, the forensic psychologist.
A potential deal could even include Daybell testifying against his wife, Delatorre added.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he speaks up. I don’t think Chad is as religious as Lori,” Delatorre said. “If he decides to be a prosecution witness, maybe it will be from the perspective of ‘How can I make this all better for me?'”
And then there’s the possibility that Vallow Daybell may have to testify in her defense if her husband testifies against her, Delatorre said.
“Some jurors may find it hard to believe that a mother is capable of killing her children,” Delatorre said. “The first assumption is that women can’t do this; and the second is that if she did it, it was because she was crazy.
“And those theories are not where the prosecution wants the jury to go,” Delatorre concluded.
Delatorre said all the defense needed was for a juror to have a reasonable doubt that Vallow Daybell did not commit the crimes.
“I think it’s a double-edged sword for Vallow Daybell to testify,” Delatorre said. “There are a lot of high risk and high rewards.”
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No more legal issues
Vallow Daybell also faces conspiracy to commit murder charges in Arizona in connection with the death of her former husband Charles Vallow.
Charles Vallow was shot in 2019 by Vallow Daybell’s brother, Alex Cox. Vallow Daybell and Cox claim the shooting was in self-defense.
Cox later died of what police say were natural causes.
The Arizona case remains pending as the fate of Vallow Daybell in the Idaho trial unfolds.