Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow appeared in Idaho courtrooms for hearings in the deaths of Vallow's children.
On April 19, Vallow was arraigned on charges related to the disappearance and deaths of JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan. Her attorney asked for a "not guilty" plea to the charges against her: two counts of first degree murder, one count of conspiracy to commit murder, two counts of criminal conspiracy, and one count of grand theft.
Lori Vallow Daybell and her new husband, Chad Daybell, were both at the courthouse in the eastern Idaho town of St. Anthony for separate court proceedings: Lori Daybell for an afternoon arraignment that was delayed for months while she underwent treatment at a mental health facility, and Chad Daybell for a morning hearing over the trial venue.
The case against Lori Daybell was stalled after a judge found her mentally incompetent to aid in her own defense and ordered her to undergo treatment at a mental health facility.
Vallow was recently found to be competent to stand trial that should begin in October 2022, pending a status conference in late April to set the date.
Vallow and her husband are currently scheduled to be tried together in January 2023.
The couple face numerous charges in the bizarre case, including conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Lori Daybell’s children, 7-year-old Joshua "JJ" Vallow, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan, as well as Chad Daybell’s first wife, Tammy Daybell. Lori Daybell is also charged in Arizona with conspiring to kill her former estranged husband, Charles Vallow, with the help of her now-deceased brother, Alex Cox.
Chad Daybell pleaded not guilty to the charges months ago and is being held in the Fremont County Jail. At his hearing, discussion about a possible change of venue for the trial, or bringing in a jury from another county will be brought up.
Vallow's children disappeared in 2019. They were later found dead on Daybell's Idaho property in 2020. Before that time, the children and Vallow had lived in the Phoenix metro area.
Daybell is also accused of murdering his late wife, Tammy.
Investigators say Chad and Lori Daybell began espousing an unusual, doomsday-focused system of religious belief involving "zombies," teleportation and communication with other spiritual realms starting in 2018, when both were still married to other people. The Idaho prosecutors say they used their religious beliefs to justify or encourage the murders.
Court proceedings begin
Photo courtesy of East Idaho News
Lori Daybell kept her head down as she entered the courtroom and spoke quietly during her arraignment on Tuesday. The courtroom was mostly full, with JJ Vallow’s grandparents, Kay and Larry Woodcock, seated in one of the front rows. The Woodcocks wiped away tears as 7th District Judge Steven Boyce read the murder charge related to the young boy’s death.
Lori Daybell, wearing a light blue blouse and glasses, opted to stand silent when she was asked to enter a plea to the charges. Boyce, who told her she could face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted, entered a not guilty plea on her behalf.
"Before I go forward with your arraignment, do you have any questions regarding what I've just explained or anything you want to ask your attorney?" Judge Steven Boyce asked Vallow.
She replies, "No, your honor."
Boyce read the charges against her, ready to ask how she would plead. Jim Archibald, Vallow's attorney said, "Your honor, she intends to remain silent, I'll ask the court to enter not guilty pleas for her and set trial."
The grandmother of JJ was crying in the courtroom, seeing Vallow and remembering their past.
"I looked at her and think, ‘I loved her and trusted her,’" Kay Woodcock said.
Earlier in the morning, Daybell appeared in court for a hearing related to the trial venue and jury. The defense and prosecution made their arguments on whether to have the murder trial in Boise, Idaho or in Fremont County where the alleged murders happened.
The judge had originally ruled that the trial would be moved to Ada County, which includes the city of Boise, but Prosecutor Rachel Smith contended that would substantially raise trial-related costs for taxpayers and potentially witnesses.
Prior said ensuring a fair trial is more important than any financial burden faced by Fremont County. He also said sequestering a jury in Fremont County would essentially turn jurors into prisoners, with no phones, television or ability to move around town.
The judge said he would issue a written ruling on the matter.
The judge has previously ordered that Chad and Lori Daybell will be tried together. But though Chad Daybell has waived his right to a speedy trial — with the trial tentatively set for January 2023 — Lori Daybell did not.
Her attorney, Jim Archibald, told the judge on Tuesday that Lori Daybell would not waive her right to a speedy trial, which means the case has to be tried within six months. It’s not yet clear if that means the Daybells will be tried separately or if the date previously set for trial in Chad Daybell’s case will be moved up.
For the grandparents of JJ, it doesn't matter where or when. "I know justice will be served," Larry Woodcock said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Continuing coverage: Lori Vallow-Chad Daybell case
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So, what did Lori Vallow do to get into the predicament she's in right now?
The complex case involving Lori Vallow and her current husband, Chad Daybell, began in 2018.
Chad Daybell (left) and Lori Vallow (right)
According to the indictment, 2018 was when Chad and Lori Daybell — both still married to other people at the time — became sharing a mutual interest over an unorthodox system of religious beliefs linked to the end of times.
We have previously covered religious beliefs espoused by Daybell, in an April 2020 article. On Oct. 30, 2018, Daybell sent an e-mail to Vallow, which reads "Here are the family history documents you requested." The attachments include a rubric, explaining how there are "light" and "dark" spirits", showing levels of estates. Another attachment lists Vallow's family tree, which includes her parents, siblings, past husbands, and her kids.
Daybell's former friend, Julie Rowe, said Daybell is off base.
"You cannot just go and test and say, 'OK, this person is a 4.1 dark," said Rowe.
Charles Vallow, who died in July 2019
We first reported on the case involving Vallow in July 2019, when we reported on a family fight in Chandler that ended in a deadly shooting.
"According to a statement, the victim, identified as Charles Vallow of Texas, was declared dead at the scene after he was found unresponsive with two gunshot wounds to the chest," the report read at the time.
Authorities identified the man who shot and killed Charles as Charles' then brother-in-law, who we now know as Alex Cox. Cox died in December 2019, and a subsequent medical examiner's report ruled that Cox died of natural causes.
In the months prior to Charles' death, he had at least two interactions with police over Vallow. Charles had also filed for divorce from Vallow in February 2019, but the petition was dismissed by Charles a month later.
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In the months following Charles' death, JJ and Tylee went missing. The children were taken to Rexburg, Idaho by Vallow, and later disappeared.
Vallow and Daybell were married in November 2019, and in January 2020, Vallow, who was in Hawaii by that time, was served with an order to physically produce JJ and Tylee. Vallow was arrested in February 2020 and accused of felony child abandonment.
Remains found on Daybell's property in June 2020 were later confirmed to be those of JJ and Tylee.
In addition to charges connected with JJ and Tylee's death, Vallow is also charged with conspiracy to commit murder in connection with Charles' death.
What does the judge's decision mean for Vallow?
District Judge Steven Boyce had previously ruled that Vallow Daybell was unfit for trial and extended her stay in an Idaho mental hospital by at least 180 days. Vallow was committed to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare on June 8, 2021, after a mental health professional said she was not competent to stand trial.
Judge Boyce's decision to restore Vallow's competency means that she is now fit to proceed with the charges filed against her, and will be transferred into the custody of the Fremont County Sheriff's Office before being arraigned on murder charges in JJ and Tylee's deaths, as well as the death of Daybell's first wife, Tammy.
The arraignment is scheduled for April 19. The trial is set for January 2023.
What are others saying about the judge's decision?
JJ's grandparents, Kay and Larry Woodcock, say they will attend the arraignment.
"It's very important to us to make sure she knows we are following this through, and we'll never stop," Kay said. "Whatever happens in the darkness always comes to light, and you can't run from your crimes, and you're going to have to pay."
"This time, I think at some point she's gonna have to look us in the eyes, and I cannot wait because we are not giving up on this," Larry said.
Is Vallow facing other potential criminal charges?
Prosecutors in Maricopa County are still reviewing charges in connection with the attempted murder of a man named Brandon Boudreaux.
In January 2020, we reported that Boudreaux was shot at as he was pulling into his home's driveway.
"All I could think was someone shooting at me. What do I do? I need to hit the gas and get out of here," Boudreaux said.
A closer look of Boudreaux's car showed the car had a broken window and a bullet hole.
Boudreaux's ex-wife, a woman whose name is now Melani Pawlowski, is Vallow's niece. Boudreaux has said he believes the attempt on his life, in addition Charles' death and the case involving JJ and Tylee, are all connected.
What about Daybell?
As for Daybell, he is charged with 1st degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the deaths of JJ, Tylee, and his first wife, Tammy. He has pleaded not guilty to all the Idaho charges.
Daybell does not face charges in Arizona. In March, we reported that the Maricopa County Attorney's Office has refused to prosecute Daybell for the attempted murder of Boudreaux.
This story was reported on from Phoenix. The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.
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Chad Daybell, top left; Lori Vallow, top right; JJ Vallow, bottom left; Tylee Ryan, bottom right.