Potential jurors screened in Idaho slain kids’ trial

Apr 3, 2023, 6:00 PM

(Tony Blakeslee/East Idaho News via AP, Pool, File)...

(Tony Blakeslee/East Idaho News via AP, Pool, File)

(Tony Blakeslee/East Idaho News via AP, Pool, File)

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — As the trial of a woman charged in three killings in what prosecutors say was a doomsday-focused plot began Monday, attorneys asked potential jurors if they would have trouble being impartial after viewing autopsy photos of children.

“This is a case that deals with murder. This is a case where two of the alleged victims are underage children,” prosecutor Rob Wood told the panel of potential jurors, warning them that some of the evidence would be “emotionally charged.”

Prosecutors charged Lori Vallow Daybell and her husband, Chad Daybell, with conspiracy, murder and grand theft in connection with the deaths of Vallow Daybell’s two youngest children: 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and big sister Tylee Ryan, who was last seen a few days before her 17th birthday in 2019. Prosecutors also have charged the couple in connection with the October 2019 death of Chad Daybell’s late wife, Tammy Daybell.

The investigation garnered worldwide attention and was closely followed in the rural eastern Idaho community where the bodies of the children were found buried in Chad Daybell’s yard. As a result, Seventh District Judge Steven Boyce moved the trial more than 200 miles (320 kilometers) east to the city of Boise.

Both defendants have pleaded not guilty, but only Vallow Daybell’s trial begins Monday. The cases have been severed, and Chad Daybell’s trial is still months away. Vallow Daybell faces up to life in prison if convicted.

“It isn’t necessarily easy to look at,” Wood said of the autopsy photos.

One potential juror said she had two elementary school-aged children, and she believed it would be difficult for her to look at that sort of evidence. Still, she said, she would try to put her feelings aside and remain impartial if selected for the jury.

Another member of the prosecution team, Rachel Smith, asked the potential jurors if they could convict someone of conspiring to commit a crime even if they didn’t take part in every part of the crime itself.

“The driver of the getaway car is as guilty as the bank robber. Does that make sense to everyone?” Smith asked. Yes, the panel of potential jurors agreed.

Authorities summoned 1,800 potential jurors to the courthouse in late March, requiring each of them to complete a 20-page questionnaire in hopes of winnowing out anyone unable to fairly try the case. On Monday morning, defense attorneys and prosecutors began questioning the remaining jury pool members in an effort to pick 12 jurors and six alternates to hear the case.

Jury selection could take a few days, and the trial itself could take up to eight weeks.

A line to enter the Ada County Courthouse stretched outside the building before proceedings began Monday. Four other trials were also being held at the courthouse, and jurors stood alongside news reporters as they all waited to pass through metal detectors and security screening.

Court administrators have anticipated a lot of interest in the case, setting up a special parking area for TV news trucks and cordoning off an area in front of the building for photographers and others.

Idaho law, like most states, seeks to shield jurors’ identities. Roughly 42 journalists and other onlookers were seated in a separate room to watch the jury selection process through a video streaming system, the cameras positioned to show Vallow Daybell and her defense attorneys Jim Archibald and John Thomas; the prosecutors Rob Wood, Lindsey Blake and Rachel Smith; and 7th District Judge Steven Boyle.

Vallow Daybell sat between her defense team. She leaned forward to listen to the questions posed to the jury pool. She occasionally appeared to take notes as the potential jurors spoke.

One potential juror said she watched several seasons of the fictional television crime show “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” which focuses on how forensic experts and crime scene investigators solve often gruesome crimes.

Smith asked if her avid CSI-watching would affect her feelings about the evidence from experts and crime lab technicians during the case.

“You may not know exactly how they died,” Smith said about the victims in the case. “Would anything in that make it difficult for you to sit in judgment on a case?” No, the potential juror said.

Prosecutors say the Daybells espoused strange doomsday-focused beliefs to further their alleged plan to kill the kids and Tammy Daybell to collect life insurance money and the children’s social security and survivor benefits.

Police documents detailed interviews with family members and friends who said the couple led a group that met to pray, believing they could drive out evil spirits and seek revelations from “beyond the spiritual veil.” Vallow Daybell’s close friend Melanie Gibb told investigators that the couple believed people became “zombies” when they were possessed by evil spirits.

The group would spend time praying to get rid of the zombies and believed, if they were successful, the possessed person would physically die, freeing their trapped soul from “limbo.” Vallow Daybell called JJ and Tylee “zombies” several times before they died, Gibb told investigators.

Idaho law enforcement officers started investigating the couple in November 2019 after extended family members reported the children were missing. During that period, police say the couple lied about the children’s whereabouts. The children’s bodies were found buried on Chad Daybell’s property in rural Idaho.

The couple married two weeks after Chad Daybell’s previous wife died unexpectedly. Tammy Daybell’s death was initially reported as resulting from natural causes, but investigators had her body exhumed after suspicions grew when Chad Daybell quickly remarried.

United States News

Associated Press

Some Seattle cancer center patients are receiving threatening emails after last month’s data breach

SEATTLE (AP) — Some patients of a Seattle-based cancer center received threatening emails following a data breach last month. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center officials said a Nov. 19 hack hit a portion of the health care system’s clinical network, possibly leaking patient data. This week, some former and current patients received threatening emails claiming names, […]

4 minutes ago

Associated Press

South Carolina jury convicts inmate in first trial involving deadly prison riots

BISHOPVILLE, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina jurors have found an inmate guilty of charges connected to the death of a fellow inmate during the deadliest U.S. prison riot of the past quarter-century. The Lee County jury deliberated less than an hour on Friday before finding Michael Juan “Flame” Smith guilty of assault and battery by […]

13 minutes ago

Associated Press

Police in Lubbock, Texas, fatally shoot a man who officer say charged them with knives

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Officers investigating a domestic disturbance fatally shot a man who they said ran at them with knives in West Texas, police said Saturday. Manuel Guillen, 34, died at a hospital following the shooting in Lubbock Friday night, police spokesperson Amber Edwards said. Edwards said the officers were responding to a report […]

22 minutes ago

Associated Press

Minnesota grocery store clerk dies after customer impales him with a golf club, police say

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minneapolis store clerk died after a customer beat him and impaled him with a golf club, police said. The 66-year-old clerk was attacked Friday at the Oak Grove Grocery, a small neighborhood store in a residential area near downtown Minneapolis. A 44-year-old suspect is jailed on suspicion of murder. Police responded […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Two Indiana police officers are acquitted of excessive force in 2020 protesters’ arrests

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Two Indianapolis police officers were acquitted early Saturday of using excessive force to strike two women with batons during arrests at a May 2020 protest against racial injustice and police brutality. Officers Jonathan Horlock and Nathaniel Schauwecker had been charged with battery and official misconduct in the case. They were among officers […]

4 hours ago

A vendor selling Street Sense, a local paper that covers issues related to the homeless and employs...

Associated Press

Technology built the cashless society. Advances are helping the unhoused so they’re not left behind

WASHINGTON (AP) — John Littlejohn remembers the days when lots of people had a couple of dollars to spare to buy a copy of Street Sense, the local paper that covers issues related to the homeless and employs unhoused individuals as its vendors. Today, he’s finding fewer people are walking around with spare change. Even […]

6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(KTAR News Graphic)...

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Follow @KTAR923...

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.


Midwestern University

Midwestern University: innovating Arizona health care education

Midwestern University’s Glendale Campus near Loop 101 and 59th Avenue is an established leader in health care education and one of Arizona’s largest and most valuable health care resources.

Potential jurors screened in Idaho slain kids’ trial