Utah’s ME testifies Tammy Daybell was restrained in hours around her killing

May 1, 2023, 3:16 PM | Updated: 4:45 pm

Tammy Daybell smiles in the photo used for her obituary. (File)...

Tammy Daybell

BOISE, Idaho — Utah’s chief medical examiner testified in Idaho Monday that Tammy Daybell was restrained around the time of her death and was killed by asphyxiation in late 2019.

Dr. Erik Christensen took the witness stand in Boise as the trial of Lori Vallow Daybell for murder entered its fifth week.

Click here for complete coverage of the Lori Vallow Daybell trial

“We determined her cause of death to be the result of asphyxia and her manner of death to be homicide,” he said.

Christensen, with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, testified Monday that when he performed the autopsy on Tammy, he found bruises on her arms and chest consistent with someone being restrained and consistent with asphyxia as the cause of death. He said the acute injuries happened within the hours around her death.

Christensen said he was present when Tammy’s body was exhumed Dec. 11, 2019, and accompanied her body to the state’s medical examination offices where he performed the autopsy. She died Oct. 19 in Idaho and was buried days later in Springville, Utah, where she is from and where she met her husband Chad Daybell. He is also charged with her murder but will have a separate trial.

No autopsy was performed in Idaho.

Vallow Daybell married Chad Daybell in Hawaii less than three weeks after Tammy was killed. The former Lori Vallow is charged with conspiracy to commit murder in Tammy Daybell’s death and with first degree murder and conspiracy of murder for her children JJ and Tylee.


The cause of Tammy Daybell’s death was first revealed in opening arguments in the trial, four weeks ago. It had been known to investigators since Christensen made his findings but the bruising and his finding that she was restrained were heard for the first time Monday.

Christensen said he looked into Tammy’s medical history before the autopsy so that he was aware of any existing conditions that could have been factors in her death, such as heart trouble or a history with seizures. She didn’t have a history of either.

Exhumed Evidence: The life & death of Tammy Daybell

The revelations were not the first big news from court Monday. Hairs that matched Vallow Daybell’s DNA profile — and presumably recovered from JJ’s burial — were also part of the evidence and testimony Monday.

Photos of Tammy Daybell after she was reported dead were previously shown in court, but not Monday. An outline of the body was shown with indicators where the injuries were recorded. There was bruising on the upper right arm near the biceps area and the right forearm. There were also marks on the left chest and the left arm over the bicep.

The actual photos were shown to jurors and the defendant but shielded from the public and media. Trials and documents are legally public information to prevent hidden prosecution but Judge Steven Boyce ruled not all evidence would be visually displayed, potentially for the privacy of victims.

Some of the close-up photos of bruises were shown though it was difficult to tell where it was located on the body or how large or small the bruises were. Tissue samples were taken of the bruises as well.

Christensen explained his findings and said the bruises were acute injuries that occurred around the time of death, possibly shortly after, but likely from the time of death to a few hours before.

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Utah’s ME testifies Tammy Daybell was restrained in hours around her killing