Idaho judge deciding if JJ Vallow’s grandparents can sit in on Lori Vallow Daybell trial
Mar 29, 2023, 9:35 PM | Updated: Apr 4, 2023, 3:45 pm
BOISE, Idaho — Just a few days from the start of the Lori Vallow Daybell trial, a last-minute hearing in Boise, Idaho Wednesday delved into if family members who plan on testifying can sit in the courtroom, namely Joshua “JJ” Vallow’s grandparents Kay and Larry Woodcock.
Judge Steven Boyce Wednesday issued an order stating anyone who is a witness being called to testify cannot sit in on other witness testimony. The only exception is for those who also classify as victims in the case.
The prosecution and defense argued back and forth on what defines a victim– and if it includes the Woodcocks.
The trial will decide if Vallow Daybell is responsible for the deaths of her adopted son JJ, her teen daughter Tylee, and Tammy Daybell– the late wife of Vallow Daybell’s husband, Chad Daybell.
The Woodcocks plan to stay in Boise for the trial’s duration and intended on attending court every single day.
Fremont County prosecutor Rob Wood explained that the Woodcocks are on the prosecution’s witness list, along with other family members including Lori’s sister Summer Shiflet, Lori’s son Colby Ryan, and Tammy Daybell’s sister and brother-in-law, Samantha and Jason Gwilliam.
Judge Boyce said the definition of a victim is not entirely clear in Idaho law.
Defense attorney James Archibald explained that he believed the only victim on the witness list who should be allowed to watch others testify, under Idaho statute, is Colby Ryan– who is Tylee’s half-brother and JJ’s adoptive brother– because he is an immediate family member of the homicide victims.
Archibald argued that grandparents are not considered immediate family and therefore not victims.
He further asserted to Judge Boyce that he believed the Woodcocks weren’t JJ’s grandparents by law anyway. Lori’s late husband, Charles Vallow (Lori is facing conspiracy charges for his murder in Arizona), was Kay’s brother and JJ’s biological uncle. Charles and Lori adopted JJ from Kay’s son.
“To call Kay Woodcock a grandma, that may be a name that she gave herself, but since her son terminated his parental rights, she is no longer a grandma by law,” Archibald said.
Wood fired back that the court’s interpretation of a victim should include someone who suffers direct and physical, financial, or emotional harm– and he stated statutes to back up his belief.
“In a case such as this, to tell a grandparent they’re not allowed to watch the trial of the of their grandson– someone who was a big part of their life– I think we really are running outside what’s intended by this statute, and what’s intended by the constitution,” he said. “I think legally, absolutely no question about it they, Larry and Kay Woodcock, meet the definition under [statute] 5A of what a victim is. They have suffered emotional harm there’s no question about that.”
Judge Boyce said he needed to do further research before making a final determination on if the Woococks will be allowed to watch while other witnesses testify. He said he plans to make a ruling early next week and gave the prosecution and defense until 5 pm Friday to submit additional arguments.
The Woodcocks, who called in the initial welfare check on JJ after not speaking to their 7-year-old grandson for months in November 2019, sparked the entire police investigation into the whereabouts of JJ and Tylee, and ultimately, their deaths.
The bodies of the children were discovered buried in tChad Daybell’s backyard in Salem, Idaho in June 2020.
Vallow Daybell was indicted in May 2021 on conspiracy and first-degree murder charges for JJ and Tylee’s deaths, conspiracy to commit murder in Tammy Daybell’s death, as well as grand theft for allegedly collecting the children’s social security benefits for months after they died.
Her trial begins on April 3 in Boise, Idaho.
Chad Daybell is also facing first-degree murder, conspiracy, grand theft, and insurance fraud charges, and is set to have a separate trial.
The Woodcocks released a statement to KSL TV Thursday, detailing their thoughts about being excluded from court:
We appreciate the outpouring of love and support from all of you after yesterday’s hearing. We were completely blindsided and heartbroken at the argument made saying we are not JJ’s grandparents and should not be considered victims in this case.
We continue to be victimized by Lori every single day living life without JJ, Tylee and Charles, then again by possibly denying us the chance to be the face in the courtroom seeking justice for them. We made a promise over 3 years ago to Tylee and JJ to see justice prevail. We will fight until we have exhausted all options to keep that promise.
We hired Shanon Gray, Gray Law, LLC. Lake Oswego, Oregon, as our attorney to fight on our behalf. We appreciate your prayers as we fight to keep our promise to JJ and Tylee.
Kay and Larry Woodcock
“The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is a duty of the living to do so for them.” – Lois Bujold