Tammy Daybell investigation: Idaho law allowed burial without an autopsy

Jun 22, 2020, 11:34 PM | Updated: Apr 2, 2023, 7:49 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – As investigations continue at Chad Daybell’s Idaho property, officials said investigators were not required by state law to perform an autopsy after Tammy Daybell’s death.

Not only were the remains of Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow buried on the property, but Daybell allegedly died while sleeping inside the home, and the circumstances surrounding her death are now under investigation.

Daybell’s death was sudden and unexpected, less than a month after detectives suspect Ryan and Vallow were buried in the backyard.

Her funeral took place just three days after she died. However, officials ruled she died of natural causes, which is why an autopsy wasn’t performed.

“I just can’t help but think that I want to know what happened to Tammy,” Mandy Fowler, Daybell’s friend and co-worker, told KSL on June 11, shortly after the children’s remains were discovered in Chad Daybell’s backyard.

Tammy Daybell’s friends and family said she was healthy and training for a marathon before her sudden and unexpected death.

“What a complete waste of an amazing person. She truly was so awesome,” said Fowler, who worked with Daybell for about five years.

Multiple sources told KSL Chad Daybell declined to have an autopsy performed. Ultimately, the Fremont County coroner ruled her death of natural causes, according to her obituary.

“I actually went over to their house the morning after Tammy died,” said Matt Price, Tammy Daybell’s neighbor. “Chad didn’t seem to have any emotion, it was very odd.”

Tammy Daybell was buried in Springville, Utah, where she and Chad Daybell grew up.

Sgt. Spencer Cannon with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office said under Utah law, a case like Tammy Daybell’s would have been referred to the state medical examiner’s office.

“As the state code says, sudden death while in apparent good health is automatically something that is seen by the medical examiner in Utah,” Cannon said. “If I went to bed tonight and didn’t wake up tomorrow, that would be unusual, and in Utah that would be a medical examiner case simply because we don’t know why I died. I’m not expected to die.”

Cannon worked for eight years as a part-time investigator for the state medical examiner’s office, in addition to being a sheriff’s office deputy. Cannon said family members don’t get a say on whether an autopsy is performed.

“We let them down easy, but we tell them state law prevails here, and for the good of everybody, it has to,” Cannon said.

But in Idaho, there isn’t a state medical examiner’s office.

University of Idaho College of Law professor Samuel Newton said death investigations are handled by county coroners and they ultimately determine if an autopsy will be performed.

“The coroner may go and examine the scene and say ‘oh we don’t need one,’ but the statute does require the coroner to do the investigation and the autopsy would be up to the discretion of the coroner,” Newton said.

County coroners serve four-year term elected positions and are only required to attend a coroner’s school and complete 24 hours of additional training every two years, according to Idaho state statute.

In rural communities like Fremont County, this is a part-time job — and their resources are limited.

For example, Fremont County, where Daybell died, listed a budget of just over $37,000 including the coroner’s salary.

For the 2019-2020 Budget Year, Madison County had listed $6000 for autopsies and inquests and the Coroner’s Salary was $14,918.00.

**Update- A GRAMA request reply on June 24th, showed additional funding was set aside for the Coroner’s office. The total is $35,133.00.

In comparison, Ada County, where Boise is located, has a budget of just over $3 million.

Last December, deputies exhumed Daybell’s remains for an autopsy after determining her death was suspicious.

Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow have been linked to the investigation.

“That’s what my mind keeps focusing on, I want justice for her,” Fowler shared.

Fremont County’s coroner is Brenda Dye. Her full-time job is as an EMT. KSL made several attempts to contact her and the Fremont County commissioners but did not receive a response.

KSL 5 TV Live

Lori Vallow & Chad Daybell

Chad Daybell sits and closes his eyes after the jury's verdict in his murder trial was read at the ...

Larry D. Curtis

Chad Daybell to appeal to verdict and death penalty, gets public defender

While former Chad Guy Daybell lives in Idaho's prison system, his attorney filed a notice of appeal and also filed a motion to appoint a public defender after his conviction for three murders.

12 days ago

Chad Daybell in a courtroom in a blue checkered shirt and solid yellow tie...

Daniel Woodruff

Jurors plan to return Saturday to continue deliberating Chad Daybell sentence

Jurors deliberated for about six hours Friday in the sentencing phase of the murder trial of Chad Daybell before calling it a night and planning to return at 9 a.m. Saturday.

17 days ago

Chad Daybell in a courtroom in a blue checkered shirt and solid yellow tie...

Eliza Pace

Chad Daybell will not present evidence as sentencing begins

Chad Daybell has chosen not to present evidence at his sentencing hearing which began Friday morning at the Ada County Courthouse. 

18 days ago


Eliza Pace, Lauren Steinbrecher, and Daniel Woodruff, KSL TV

‘I’m happy it’s over’: JJ Vallow’s grandfather reacts to Chad Daybell verdict

Larry and Kay Woodcock exited the Ada County Courthouse to cheers from people who had gathered to hear the verdict of the Chad Daybell trial.

18 days ago

Chad Daybell in a courtroom in a blue checkered shirt and solid yellow tie...

Larry D. Curtis

Jury finds Chad Daybell guilty on all counts in triple murder case

An Idaho jury found former Utah resident Chad Guy Daybell guilty of the murder of three people. He was found guilty of all charges, including conspiracy to commit each of those murders.

19 days ago

FILE — The Ada County Courthouse in Boise, Idaho on May 30, 2024....

Eliza Pace

Jury asks judge about missing instruction on murder charge for Chad Daybell

There was some confusion the Ada County Courthouse this morning when the jury in the murder trial of Chad Daybell noticed critical instructions were missing. 

19 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Tammy Daybell investigation: Idaho law allowed burial without an autopsy