‘Something wasn’t sitting well’: Funeral director expressed concerns about Tammy Daybell’s death

Apr 26, 2024, 8:27 PM | Updated: 8:29 pm

BOISE — Family friends testified in Chad Daybell’s murder trial Friday about comments he made in the days after his wife died — a death that seemed very sudden.

Steven Schultz, a former neighbor who worked as a funeral director, described driving to Daybell’s Salem, Idaho, home to bring Tammy Daybell’s body to Utah for the funeral in Springville. He invited Tammy Daybell’s brother-in-law, Jason Gwilliam, to come for the drive as well.

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Schultz said he told Chad Daybell he would “be honored” to make that trip.

“The Daybells were a solid rock in our community,” he said. “I thought highly of all of them.”

By the time Schultz left the Daybell home, however, he said he had concerns.

He said the coroner had not ordered an autopsy and Chad Daybell voiced that he did not want an autopsy, even when Schultz suggested it may be useful for his children to see the results because they could have inherited the same medical issues. He said typically people that young don’t usually die suddenly. Tammy Daybell was 49.

Schultz also said Chad Daybell told him he wanted to hold the funeral “just as quickly as he could,” saying, “I don’t want to drag this out.”

Those things, which he said always make him wary, combined with other “red flags” in things he had heard from the family about Daybell’s religious beliefs made him question whether there were suspicious circumstances. He said he did not see anything suspicious on Tammy Daybell’s body when he looked.

Still, his concerns were significant enough that he brought them up with Tammy Daybell’s relative who was driving with him.

“Something wasn’t sitting well with me,” Schultz said.

Gwilliam defended Chad Daybell, Schultz said, and said he would never do anything to hurt his wife.

Tammy Daybell died on Oct 19, 2019. Her body was exhumed about two months after her death for an autopsy, and a coroner concluded she died by homicide from asphyxiation by suffocation.

Chad Daybell is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of his wife and those of Lori Vallow Daybell’s children — 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan. He is also charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder of each of the victims, grand theft and two counts of insurance fraud.

A shocking death


Ron and Whitney Arnold, neighbors of Chad and Tammy Daybell in Idaho, testified that they heard about Tammy Daybell’s death the morning she died and went over to the Daybell home. Ron Arnold said Chad Daybell “seemed distraught,” but his wife said he seemed “disconnected” and didn’t show a lot of emotion.

“It was very unexpected and pretty shocking,” she said.

She testified that she encouraged Daybell to consider an autopsy. She pointed out that his daughters have the same genes, but Daybell calmly declined to consider it.

Ron Arnold said Daybell told him he would be staying with a friend in Rexburg because he didn’t feel comfortable at the house, and also said he was planning to go to Hawaii to “help a friend do a biography.” Arnold said he took that at face value and did not have any concerns.

Richard Garner, the principal at the elementary school where Tammy Daybell worked, said he was surprised at her death and went to the Daybell home to express condolences. Garner said he had not seen anything to make him think she had any health concerns and assumed, at first, she must have died in a traffic collision.

Garner helped arrange a memorial in Idaho for the day after the funeral in Utah and said he was surprised that he did much of the planning for it. He said he reserved a church building and made a program for the memorial without any help from Chad Daybell.

Craig Huff, a Springville neighbor who attended the funeral, said Chad Daybell “broke down crying” when they hugged at her viewing, and that Chad Daybel told him his wife had “choked to death.” He described Chad Daybell as a “wonderful person” when he had lived near them.

Shortly after the funeral, he said Chad Daybell called it a miracle that he had gotten his wife’s computer passwords for important accounts about a week before her death.

Huff testified he was “shocked” when he learned that Chad Daybell had remarried days after his wife’s death.

In early November 2019, less than a month after Tammy Daybell’s death, the Arnolds met Lori Daybell at their home. Whitney Arnold said they had been inviting the Daybells children to their home each Monday for dinner ever since their mother’s death.

She testified that Lori Daybell told them she had seven children, although it was not clear if they were all hers or if she was counting hers and Chad Daybell’s children together, but she was told all of them were adults.

Whitney Arnold said she did not speak with Chad Daybell that day. “I was understandably disappointed and frustrated. I felt like, emotionally, (getting remarried) was not fair to the kids as they were grieving their mother. … I was at odds with him within myself,” she said.


‘Everything was going to be just fine’


Ron Arnold is a real estate agent and said he had talked to Chad Daybell before about splitting his property. He said after the dinner in their home in November 2019, the next time he heard from Chad Daybell was in March 2020 when they had a meeting in Arnold’s car to discuss building a manufactured home on his property.

At that point, it was widely known that police were searching for Tylee and JJ.

“I asked Chad the questions that probably everybody else would want to ask about where are the kids,” Arnold said.

“He looked me straight in the eye and he told me that they were OK and … when everything came out, that everything was going to be just fine,” Arnold said.

At the time, he said he took that to mean the children were alive.

Arnold said Daybell told him the home he wanted to build on the property would be a place for him and his new wife. However, with everything Arnold knows now about JJ and Tylee’s bodies being found on the property, he said there could be another reason for wanting to have a construction project.

He said putting a manufactured home on a property includes digging to create a foundation and connecting the home to the sewer or septic system.

Defense attorney John Prior asked Arnold about the home and the property as a real estate agent. When he asked how large the property is, Arnold responded to Prior, “You own it. How many acres is it?”

After a conversation with attorneys initiated by Prior immediately after that statement, the judge instructed the jury to disregard the statement and not consider it, calling it an “unsolicited factual response.”

Court TV reported Friday that it reviewed property records that indicate Prior does own the Salem property where the Daybells used to live. The latest deed transfer date listed is May 2021, which is the same month Prior was hired to defend Daybell.

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‘Something wasn’t sitting well’: Funeral director expressed concerns about Tammy Daybell’s death