‘I saw evil’: juror recounts Lori Vallow Daybell trial, deliberations
May 17, 2023, 6:54 PM | Updated: May 18, 2023, 6:03 am
BOISE, Idaho — One of the 12 jurors who convicted Lori Vallow Daybell is speaking out, explaining what solidified to him that she was guilty of murdering her children and conspiring to murder her husband’s late wife — but why he still doubted he could convict her on all charges.
Saul Hernandez shared with East Idaho News Wednesday what it was like in that deliberation room last week, and why some jurors were hung up on one of the charges before making a decision.
“I saw evil for, I think true evil, for the first time in my life,” Hernandez said, of Vallow Daybell. “If there’s a face to evil, it was hers.”
But just six weeks ago, Hernandez didn’t know much of anything about her. He told East Idaho News’ Nate Eaton he realized just how big the case was when he saw how many people showed up to the courthouse to see the trial.
He went into the trial with an open mind.
“I felt that, you know, she deserves a shot, right?” He said. “She deserves a defense, and innocent until proven guilty.”
Things began to change for Hernandez over the course of the next month, as he heard and saw the evidence laid out by the FBI and forensic scientists explaining the deaths of Vallow Daybell’s children, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan, and her husband Chad Daybell‘s late wife, Tammy Daybell.
Hernandez indicated that testimony from former FBI Special Agent Douglas Hart, the case agent, on Vallow Daybell’s iCloud account data was what really sold him.
“Not just the text messages, but the timeline, right? You start something from 2018 and then it progresses,” he said. “You can see the relationship evolve from a potential, maybe inappropriate friendship, to clearly having an affair. And then now they’re putting their brains together as to how they are going to execute murder of not one, but multiple people.”
The testimony that stood out most, Hernandez said, came from Vallow Daybell’s son Colby Ryan and her sister Summer Shiflet.
Jurors heard emotional jail phone calls between each person and Vallow Daybell, demanding to know why she killed JJ and Tylee.
“I think hearing the pain in his voice, expressing to his mom what she did. I don’t know, man. It was out of this world,” Hernandez expressed. “And then Summer was again very, very powerful, telling (Vallow Daybell) how much she loves her, how much she still loves her.”
Hernandez took notes throughout the trial and said he was waiting for the defense’s case to hopefully answer questions he had. But any witnesses, evidence, and testimony from the defense’s side never came.
Still, walking into that deliberation room, Hernandez told Eaton he still wasn’t sure the evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Vallow Daybell murdered her daughter Tylee. His fellow jurors convinced him otherwise.
“We talked, they presented, we pulled some exhibits. We went through them all. We listened to some more audio,” Hernandez said, explaining the process of thoroughly deliberating that charge. “And they helped me come to that conclusion of ‘guilty.’ You know, it’s a big charge. And I really wanted to give it its process, its due process that it required.”
He said two jurors weren’t convinced about the conspiracy charge in Tammy Daybell’s death, and that ended up being the last charge that the jury deliberated on.
He said things, at times, got excitable in the deliberation room — but everyone remained respectful.
“I got up there and showed what helped me come to my conclusion, and other people did the same,” he said, of the jurors unsure of the conspiracy charge to murder Tammy Daybell.
After showing all the evidence, everyone was on board. They had now decided on each charge.
It was surreal, Hernandez said, to come to a verdict.
“We did it. We did it the right way. We didn’t rush into this. We gave her a shot. We followed the process. We followed the rules that the judge gave us,” he said. “You can feel good about it.”
Hernandez said he appreciates the justice system, he respects the process and he was happy he could serve and do his duty.
“I think you just feel satisfaction that you’ve done the best job you could,” he said. “And you can render some kind of justice.”