Jury finds Chad Daybell guilty on all counts in triple murder case

May 30, 2024, 2:11 PM | Updated: May 31, 2024, 6:36 am

BOISE — An Idaho jury found former Utah resident Chad Guy Daybell guilty of the murder of three people. He was found guilty of all charges, including conspiracy to commit each of those murders.

After the verdict was read, Judge Stephen Boyce said that because Daybell is eligible for the death penalty, the court would begin the second phase of the trial, a sentencing phase, after a one-hour break. Thursday, Boyce talked to the jury and said the sentencing phase is expected to start at approximately 8:30 a.m. Friday.

A death penalty case is unique in the judicial system, where the jury is responsible for sentencing instead of a judge. The same jury that decided he is guilty of three murders will decide what penalty those crimes carry.

Daybell, 59, was charged with killing his late wife, Tammy Daybell, and Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow — the children of his currently incarcerated wife, Lori Vallow Daybell, who was previously found guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the same three deaths.

Tammy Daybell died in her shared Idaho bedroom while the remains of Lori Vallow Daybell’s then-missing children were found buried on Chad Daybell’s property when Rexburg police served a search warrant there on June 9, 2020, in Salem, Idaho.

Click here for complete coverage of the Chad Daybell trial

The death penalty is still a possibility for Chad Daybell, though the death penalty option was removed for Lori Vallow Daybell. The verdict reached by the jury did not include sentencing, as is standard procedure.

Judge Steven Boyce separated the trials, granting a motion by Chad Daybell’s legal team in March 2023 to waive his right to a speedy trial. Lori Daybell did not waive that right. She was tried approximately a year before Chad Daybell.


The charges against Chad Guy Daybell

The following eight charges were filed against Chad Daybell:

  1. Conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft by deception — for Tylee Ryan
  2. First-degree murder — for Tylee Ryan
  3. Conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft by deception — for Joshua Jaxon “JJ” Vallow
  4. First-degree murder — for Joshua Jaxon “JJ” Vallow
  5. Conspiracy to commit first-degree murder — for Tammy Daybell
  6. First-degree murder — for Tammy Daybell
  7. Insurance fraud — for a life insurance policy on Tammy Daybell
  8. Insurance fraud — for Tammy Daybell

History of the case

Chad Daybell met Lori Vallow at a “Preparing A People” conference in St. George, Utah, on Oct. 26, 2018. By February 2019 she was moving toward divorce from her now late husband Charles Vallow. By July of the same year, Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow were texting on a personal level that investigators described as like “a romance novel.” Prosecutors said the case was about “money, power and sex.”

On July 11, 2019, Alex Cox, Lori Daybell’s brother and a man prosecutors said believed 100% in Chad Daybell’s spiritual guidance, shot and killed Charles Vallow. It was later ruled a homicide. Cox later died of what was ruled to be natural causes.

Prosecutors said Tylee was killed on or just after Sept. 8, 2019, and on Sept. 9, Cox was on the Daybell property, where her body was later found. Investigators said JJ was killed a couple of weeks later. Tammy Daybell died after what was said to be a brief illness on Oct. 19 of the same year and was buried three days later in Utah.

Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell celebrating their wedding. They were married in Hawaii on Nov. 5, 2019. (Police photo)

Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell celebrated their wedding in Hawaii where they were married Nov. 5, 2019. (Police photo)

On Nov. 5, 2019, Chad Daybell married Lori Daybell in Hawaii. Later that year, on Dec. 20, JJ and Tylee were officially named as missing and the new couple were listed as “persons of interest” in their disappearance. In January 2020, a warrant was served on the Daybells.

Lori Daybell was ordered by a Rexburg, Idaho, court to return her children. She was arrested on Feb. 20, 2020, and has not left custody since.

On June 9, 2020, the remains of Tylee and JJ were found in Chad Daybell’s backyard, resulting in his arrest. A grand jury indicted Lori Daybell and Chad Daybell on May 24, 2021, with conspiracy and first-degree murder. On April 3, 2023, Lori Daybell’s trial started.

Applying evidence to 3D model of Chad Daybell’s property

On May 12, 2023, Lori Daybell was found guilty on all six counts, including for the murder of her children, in a globally followed news story. She was sentenced to life in prison without parole in July 2023. She is currently in Arizona awaiting more conspiracy to commit murder charges. She has pleaded not guilty.

Chad Daybell’s triple murder case started on April 1.

A more detailed timeline is included below.

How the two trials were different

In Lori Daybell’s trial, the defense called no witnesses, while Chad Daybell’s legal team brought his adult children, a forensic pathologist, a DNA expert, and a forensics expert.

Chad Daybell was always eligible to be put to death if found guilty and his competence to stand trial was never questioned. Lori Daybell, however, had to be approved competent twice to stand trial after a May 2021 mental health evaluation found she was not competent.

Her legal team, in court records, called her mental health “extremely complex and fragile.” Boyce first found she was competent in November 2022. Prosecutors initially opposed and then withdrew opposition to the report.

Chad Daybell in a courtroom in a blue checkered shirt and solid yellow tie

Former Utahn Chad Guy Daybell is in the Ada County Courthouse on May 30, 2024, as a jury found him guilty of three murders and other charges associated with the killings. (Court pool)

No witness spoke on behalf of Lori Daybell during her trial. Her son, Colby Ryan, spoke about what he had lost at her sentencing hearing and in her trial. A call of his played in the court, where he told her she ripped out the hearts of everyone in their family.

In contrast, Daybell’s children spoke on his behalf and testified that their mother was sick before her death, said she was not killed at all and said they were responsible for a Google search brought up in the trial.

“There’s no asphyxiation here, folks…This was not a homicide,” attorney John Prior said in closing arguments.

FILE: Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell

Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell were identified by these photos when police were searching for Tylee Ryan and “JJ” Vallow, later found dead on the Daybell property. (Police photo)

In Lori Daybell’s trial, she was not accused of participating in the burial of JJ or Tylee. During the trial, when the remains were shown to the courtroom and the jury, she asked to be excused from the court. Boyce denied that request.

Chad Daybell’s defense team said there was no previously suspected bonfire at his residence and blamed Alex Cox for the murders. He also mentioned friends of Lori Daybell by name in closing arguments, stating they were present for the killings, but said the accused was not present.

Lori Vallowb Daybell, right, appears in court in Kauai, Hawaii on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. Seated in the gallery is her husband, Chad Daybell, front row in blue tie. (Pool)

Prior also blamed others by name for the killings, including Lori Daybell.

“Alex Cox murdered Tylee Ryan. Lori Vallow knew what was going on,” Prior said. He also said Chad Daybell was the target, and Lori Daybell intended to collect life insurance money for him.

Chad Daybell did not testify in his own defense. Lori Daybell didn’t either but did release a statement at her sentencing hearing where she said no one was murdered in the case. She said she knows her children are happy and busy.

“I know my friend Tammy Daybell is happy,” Lori Daybell said.

After her statement, Boyd addressed Lori Daybell.

Lori Vallow Daybell sentenced to life in prison without parole

“While you were enjoying your life in Hawaii, countless law enforcement officers, family members, and volunteers were searching for your children. I don’t think to this day you have any remorse for the effort or heartache you caused others,” Boyce said. “They were found dead, burned, mutilated, dismembered, and buried like animals.”

The death of Tammy Daybell

Chad Daybell was charged with the murder of his wife, as well as the conspiracy to commit her murder, different from Lori Daybell who was only charged with conspiracy of the murder. Tammy Daybell’s death was not initially ruled a homicide, and an autopsy was not performed without a conflict with Idaho law.

As part of the investigation into the Daybells, her body was exhumed two months later from her grave in Springville, Utah, where she was buried three days after her Oct. 19, 2019, death in Idaho. Dr. Erik Christensen, Utah’s former chief medical examiner, now retired, testified in the trials. When he examined her exhumed body, he ruled Tammy Daybell’s death a homicide. He told the court he believed at least one person may have restrained her while another person suffocated her.

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

Tammy Daybell

Chad Daybell was also charged with two counts of insurance fraud, at least one of the counts related to his late wife’s life insurance that was also part of the testimony.

The defense called Chad and Tammy Daybell’s adult children to testify on his behalf. They said their mother was ill before her death, different from the testimony of others who knew and worked with Tammy Daybell.

The prosecution was critical of Christensen in closing arguments and didn’t agree that Tammy Daybell was murdered at all. As part of the defense, a forensic pathologist, Dr. Kathy Raven, testified that the cause of death of Tammy Daybell was best classified as “undetermined.

“Since we don’t know exactly what happened, we call it undetermined,” Raven said, “and that’s what I would have called this.”

Chad Daybell grew up in Springville and met Tammy Daybell there. They married and raised their children there before moving to Idaho in 2015.

The deaths of Tylee Ryan and ‘JJ’ Vallow

A friend of Tylee’s testified that once she moved to Idaho, she wasn’t able to stay in contact with her friend. She described her lost friend’s relationship with JJ as almost maternal.

“She was there for him … Tylee would always be the one to show up,” Ashlyn Rynd said.

The 16-year-old girl was last seen at Yellowstone National Park on Sept. 8, 2019, the day before her uncle Alex Cox was on Chad Daybell’s property in the place where her largely burned and destroyed remains were found. In both trials, law enforcement officers described the process of unearthing her body and collecting her remains.

In Chad Daybell’s trial, an FBI forensic examiner said he found markings on her bones consistent with stabbing and capping actions. He said a stabbing action caused the girl’s hip bone to fracture. Forensic anthropologist Dr. Angi Christensen said Tylee’s bones showed trauma was inflicted while they were still biomechanical fresh, either happening at her death or shortly after.

Satellite photo shows Chad Daybell property on likely day of child’s burial

Lori Daybell took JJ out of public school on Sept. 23, 2019, on what might have been his last day. She told the school he would be getting his education at home after that date.

His remains were found in the same location as his sisters, but they were discovered first and much more intact, according to trial testimony. Juries in both trials were shown pictures of his remains, bound and duct taped in his pajamas.

During the trial, including closing arguments, testimony focused on Chad Daybell’s classification of people as dark or light. According to then-close friend Melanie Gibb, Lori Daybell’s children were described as dark. She also described the last time she saw JJ, asleep and carried by his uncle Alex Cox.

Larry and Kay Woodcock wanted to be guardians of JJ, took care of him, and have spoken publically about the case frequently. Charles Vallow, shot and killed by Alex Cox, is Kay Woodcock’s brother. JJ’s remains were released to the Woodcocks.

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Jury finds Chad Daybell guilty on all counts in triple murder case