Jury now selected: What to expect from Chad Daybell’s death penalty trial

Apr 8, 2024, 12:51 PM | Updated: Apr 9, 2024, 11:44 pm

BOISE — Almost a year after Lori Vallow Daybell was tried and convicted of murdering her children, the Boise courthouse and people around the country are now braced for the trial of her husband, Chad Daybell.

Testimony in the trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday morning after a final jury of 10 men and eight women was selected Monday. The trial will be streamed live on the KSL+ app, KSL News YouTube page and the KSLTV Facebook page.

Click here for complete coverage of the Chad Daybell trial

Lori and Chad Daybell were indicted by a grand jury in May 2021 on multiple counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of her children, JJ Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 16; and Daybell’s first wife, Tammy Daybell, who was 49. Chad Daybell is also charged with two counts of insurance fraud in relation to Tammy Daybell’s life insurance policies.

Lori Daybell’s trial lasted six weeks, and she was ultimately found guilty and was ordered to serve five life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Because the death penalty is a possibility for Chad Daybell, his trial could last even longer. Jury selection began April 1 and the trial could last until May 31.

JJ Vallow’s grandparents, Larry and Kay Woodcock, told KSL TV they plan to attend every day of Chad Daybell’s trial — just like they did for Lori Daybell’s trial last year.

“We know it’s going to be hard again. It’s going to be difficult. It’s going to be tiring,” Larry Woodcock said. He said he is praying for the jurors, many of whom will be hearing about the case and its graphic details for the first time.

Kay Woodcock is the sister of Charles Vallow, Lori Daybell’s previous husband, whom she is also charged with murdering. Lori and Charles Vallow adopted JJ from his grandparents.

Kay and Larry Woodcock speak to members of the media on Jan. 7, 2020. The couple is planning to attend the trial for Chad Daybell , just as they did the trial for Lori Daybell last year. (Photo: John Roark)

A case that gripped the nation

In November 2019, the concern of the Woodcocks for their grandson led to an investigation after they used login information shared by Charles Vallow to find an Idaho address on an Amazon order made by Lori Daybell. It had already been months since they had heard from their grandson after then-Lori Vallow moved to Idaho.

It took over six months for police to locate the bodies of JJ and Tylee in Chad Daybell’s backyard in Salem, Idaho. Evidence from Lori Daybell’s jury trial showed JJ and Tylee were murdered weeks apart in September 2019.

In October 2019, Chad Daybell’s wife was killed in her sleep by what investigators said was asphyxiation, though at the time officials said she died of natural causes. Just two weeks later, Lori Vallow married Chad Daybell on a beach in Hawaii.

On Dec. 11, Tammy Daybell’s body was exhumed in Springville after authorities determined her death may have been suspicious.

Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan’s bodies were found over six months after law enforcement began looking for them. Their mother, Lori Vallow Daybell, was found guilty last year of their murders. Testimony in the trial for Chad Daybell is expected to begin Wednesday morning. (Photo: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children)

Lori and Chad Daybell were in Hawaii on a trip that began shortly after police showed up at her home looking for her children and Lori Daybell was arrested on Feb. 20, 2020. She was initially arrested for failing to comply with a court order requiring her to produce her children, and was charged with desertion and nonsupport of dependent children.

Chad Daybell was not arrested, however, until June 9, 2020, when the children’s bodies were found in his backyard. Tylee’s remains were so mutilated that authorities were unable to determine the cause of her death. And JJ, who was found bound with duct tape and a plastic bag, was killed by asphyxiation.

Potential for new evidence

Although much of the evidence in the case already became public during Lori Daybell’s trial, Chad Daybell’s trial could produce new evidence.

He is charged with murdering Tammy Daybell. Lori Daybell was convicted of conspiracy to commit her murder, as she was in Hawaii when the death occurred. Additional evidence surrounding Tammy Daybell’s death could be presented.

Specifically, there was no testimony in Lori Daybell’s trial from Chad Daybell’s children about their mother’s death, or their response to her body being exhumed.

During Lori Daybell’s trial, the court heard testimony regarding comments she made from jail to her older son, Colby Ryan, and her sister, Summer Shiflet. There was also testimony from some of Lori Daybell’s friends, who testified to changes in her religious beliefs and attitudes and about her suspicious responses and reactions after her children disappeared.

Chad Daybell’s trial could include similar testimony from his friends and family members that has not been heard yet about his character, or changes in his attitude shortly before and after the children and Tammy Daybell died, and before he was arrested.

There will likely be a lot of testimony that overlaps, including the investigation into Lori and Chad Daybell’s relationship, and police testimony from when they were searching for the children’s bodies and investigating the case.

Lori Daybell was also found guilty of grand theft for taking Social Security benefits owed to her children, and continuing to take Social Security child care benefits after their deaths. Evidence associated with Lori Daybell and her children’s bank accounts do not apply as directly to Chad Daybell’s charges.

However, there may be more evidence presented regarding Tammy Daybell’s life insurance in an attempt to prove the charges against Chad Daybell for insurance fraud.

A depiction of the Boise courtroom on May 10, 2023, during the murder trial of Lori Vallow Daybell. Testimony in the trial for Chad Daybell is expected to begin Wednesday morning. (Photo: Lori Cheney)

Lori Daybell’s trial also had testimony from officers in Arizona who responded when her then-husband Charles Vallow was shot and killed by Lori Daybell’s brother, Alex Cox. The incident was initially determined to be self-defense, but witnesses at her trial revealed evidence pointing to the possibility of murder.

Cox was never charged in the case, and died the day after Tammy Daybell’s body was exhumed. Investigators said he died of natural causes. In Lori Daybell’s jury trial, Cox’s name came up frequently regarding information surrounding the deaths of Tylee and JJ, as well as Tammy Daybell.

Lori Daybell is currently incarcerated in Arizona where she is facing two counts of conspiracy to commit murder in relation to the death of Charles Vallow and her former nephew-in-law, Brandon Boudreaux. Her Arizona trial is scheduled for Aug. 1, but the judge said that may not be realistic.

She is already facing multiple life sentences for her convictions in Idaho last year.

The death penalty possibility

Because this is a death penalty case for Chad Daybell, there could be two phases of the trial. If he is found guilty, a second penalty phase would follow the regular trial.

John Thomas, one of the attorneys for Lori Daybell during her trial, told East Idaho News the attorneys will need to go into the trial ready for the sentencing phase with experts and witnesses to explain why Chad Daybell might have acted as he did.

In a death penalty case, the same jury that deliberates whether a person is guilty or innocent would then deliberate in a sentencing phase if the defendant is found guilty. Jurors would need to come to a second unanimous verdict over whether the person should be put to death or not.

Thomas said for a death penalty trial the goal is still acquittal, but some could still consider it a win if jurors issued a sentence of life in prison without parole instead of the death penalty if a guilty verdict was reached. He said he prepared for Lori Daybell’s trial like a death penalty case, but the death penalty had been taken off the table shortly before the trial began.

“Death is different. … You get a lot more leeway … in your defense, you can ask a lot more questions, you can put on a lot more witnesses. Everything is on the table in a death penalty case,” he said.

Idaho’s law says the jury should decide in favor of the death penalty if it finds there were aggravating circumstances — like it being an especially heinous or atrocious crime or risk was created to multiple people — and that no mitigating circumstances make imposing the death penalty unjust.

KSL will have reporters in court throughout the trial and will stream Chad Daybell’s trial live each day on KSL TV.

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Jury now selected: What to expect from Chad Daybell’s death penalty trial