Chad Daybell’s family members describe his changing demeanor, end times fixation before wife’s death

May 10, 2024, 5:43 PM | Updated: 6:08 pm

BOISE — Tammy Daybell‘s sister, Samantha Gwilliam, said when they were together two weeks before Tammy’s death, they were making plans to live near each other soon.

“It was always our joke that we would be old ladies together, living side by side,” an emotional Gwilliam testified Friday during the Chad Daybell murder trial.

Gwilliam said she was “absolutely shocked” to hear that her sister had died, saying “she looked perfectly healthy” and was “really happy” just weeks before.

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She also found it “odd” that Chad Daybell would not want his name on his wife’s headstone. “To leave that off would mean that someone down the line could not connect him to her,” she said.

Gwilliam said just two weeks after her sister was buried, Chad Daybell married Lori Vallow Daybell. She asked him during a phone call about the woman he “replaced my sister with,” and he said she wanted to move forward from a complicated past. Gwilliam said that because she questioned him, Chad Daybell responded to her in a “spiritual-like tone” and said: “Samantha, I am telling you now that when I was at the cemetery, Tammy showed herself to me and said that I should move on.”

Gwilliam said she responded with, “When most women say that to their husband, it’s in two years from now, not two weeks after I’m dead.”

Chad Daybell is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, as well as the deaths of his new wife Lori Daybell’s two children, 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan, in late 2019. He is also charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder of each of the victims, grand theft and two counts of insurance fraud.

An obsession


Jason Gwilliam, Samantha Gwilliam’s husband, said Chad Daybell began to focus on preparing for the end of times around 2007, and it grew into an obsession.

He testified that “life-changing” or near-death experiences Chad Daybell had told him about earlier turned into stories about visions. He said it seemed like Daybell and the people he interacted with had an obsession with near-death experiences.

Around 2013, Jason Gwilliam said Chad Daybell told him there would be two earthquakes, including a “Wasatch wake-up earthquake,” and said other countries would be invading the United States.

“It’s a fear tactic, it’s a way to let people know, ‘I know more than you and therefore you should listen to me,'” Jason Gwilliam testified.

In 2015, he said Chad Daybell invited his family to move with them to Idaho “in order to escape the earthquakes and the desolation.” Initially, Gwilliam said, he was interested but ultimately didn’t feel the move would be right.

Chad Daybell told him in a letter that dark spirits were holding his wife back from moving to Idaho.

“I felt like he was trying to take the stewardship over my family,” Jason Gwilliam said.

Samantha Gwilliam said the allegation that she had dark or evil spirits made her “very unhappy.”

Jason Gwilliam, brother-in-law to Tammy Daybell, testifies during Chad Daybell's murder trial in Boise on Friday. Chad Daybell is charged in the murders of Tammy Daybell, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan

Jason Gwilliam, brother-in-law to Tammy Daybell, testifies during Chad Daybell’s murder trial in Boise on Friday. Chad Daybell is charged in the murders of Tammy Daybell, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan. (Photo: Judge Steven W. Boyce via YouTube)

‘Not crying but trying to cry’


In October 2019, Jason Gwilliam said he was stunned when his wife called to tell him Tammy Daybell had died. “It didn’t seem that somebody of her age and her condition should have passed,” he said.

He helped coordinate the funeral, which Chad Daybell wanted to hold on Tuesday, three days after the death.

“I just felt it was very quick,” Jason Gwilliam said.

When he drove with Steve Shultz, a Springville mortician, to get Tammy Daybell’s body in Idaho, Jason Gwilliam said Chad Daybell was acting normal, which seemed off. He said he “didn’t witness a lot of mourning” from Daybell, who told them he was “all cried out.”

During a family prayer at the funeral, Jason Gwilliam said he felt Chad Daybell was “not crying but trying to cry” and was “really shaky and very unsure on his feet.”

He said Chad Daybell was about 45 minutes late to the funeral luncheon, and left again quickly, saying he needed to get to a memorial the next day.


A quick marriage


FBI tactical specialist Nicole Heideman testified Friday about her investigation into Lori and Chad Daybell’s wedding planning. She said Chad Daybell’s first internet search for “malachite,” which the couple’s wedding rings were made from, happened in March of 2019 and both Chad and Lori Daybell were searching for malachite online in May 2019.

In August 2019, Lori Daybell first purchased malachite rings, although the ones she believes were used by the couple were purchased in early October.

Charles Vallow, Lori Daybell’s husband, was killed in July 2019 and Tammy Daybell was killed in October 2019.

Heideman read texts from the couple that have been introduced to the jury before, including one where Chad Daybell said going to Kauai with Lori Daybell, where they eventually got married, is “the plan and my greatest desire.”

Heideman read from what police called the James and Elena story, which was written by Chad Daybell about him meeting Lori Daybell. In the story, James — an alias for Chad Daybell — shared with Elena — an alias for Lori Daybell — that they had been married in a previous life and had a mission to serve together.

About 30 days after Tammy Daybell’s funeral, Jason Gwilliam said he called Chad Daybell and was very surprised to learn he was remarried. Chad Daybell asked him not to tell anybody about the marriage. Chad Daybell told him his children knew he was going to get remarried before he left for Hawaii, and Jason Gwilliam asked how they had kept it a secret.

“The answer troubled me, because (Chad Daybell) said, ‘My kids are good at keeping secrets.'”

In December, Chad Daybell called Jason and Samantha Gwilliam and asked if they were responsible for Tammy Daybell’s body being exhumed. Shortly after, Jason Gwilliam said he met with police and learned that they were searching for the missing children of Daybell’s new wife.

Jason Gwilliam also described a phone call he recorded during which Lori Daybell said people were “stirring up trouble for no reason” and Chad Daybell said his sister-in-law, Heather Daybell, was behind the trouble and described her as an “evil woman.” Gwilliam said that phone call was his final communication with Chad Daybell.


‘Weird’ foam


Cammy Willmore, the deputy coroner for Fremont County who responded to Tammy Daybell’s death, also testified Friday and said Chad Daybell was “distraught” and his son Garth Daybell was “very quiet.”

Willmore said she was told Tammy Daybell had some lightheadedness and had recently been “a little bit clumsy.” She was told that Tammy Daybell was coughing the night before, vomited and then went back to sleep. Chad Daybell reported his wife had fallen off the bed and hit her head, and he woke up to find her dead.

Tammy Daybell had a few bruises on her bicep that looked older to her, Willmore said, and her body was stiff, showing she had been dead for a few hours.

She also had foam at her mouth which Willmore said she hadn’t seen before. She said she searched online whether poison might cause that while she was at the Daybell home, but did not find anything. Willmore said it was “weird” that when they wiped the foam away, it came back.

Contributing: Daniel Woodruff, KSL TV

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Chad Daybell’s family members describe his changing demeanor, end times fixation before wife’s death