UNITED STATES NEWS

Chad Daybell trial begins in case of man charged with deaths of wife, 2 children found buried in Idaho

Apr 1, 2024, 7:00 PM | Updated: 7:27 pm

Chad Daybell trial started last week: he could face death penalty...

The trial of Daybell, who is charged with the deaths of his wife and his girlfriend's two youngest children, is set to begin in Idaho on Monday, April 1, 2024, serving as a second act in a bizarre case that has drawn worldwide attention and already resulted in a life sentence for the kids' mother. (John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register via AP, Pool, File)

(John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register via AP, Pool, File)

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Chad Daybell trial, which is centered around a man charged with the deaths of his wife and his girlfriend’s two youngest children, began with jury selection in Idaho this week. It serves as a second act in a bizarre case that has drawn worldwide attention and already resulted in a life sentence for the mother of the children.

Chad Daybell’s trial is expected to last up to 10 weeks, and jury selection began in Boise Monday morning with 7th District Judge Steven Boyce reading the charges to the potential jurors and telling them that it is up to prosecutors to prove the charges — Daybell does not need to prove his innocence.

The 55-year-old self-published author is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Tammy Daybell, 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and JJ’s big sister, Tylee Ryan, who was last seen a few days before her 17th birthday.

The children’s mother, Lori Vallow Daybell — who married Chad Daybell shortly after the deaths — was found guilty last year and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The couple claimed they could tell if people had been possessed by dark spirits that could turn them into “zombies,” former friend Melanie Gibb testified in court. They believed the only way to get rid of a zombie was to destroy the possessed person’s body by killing them.

The children’s bodies were found buried in Chad Daybell’s eastern Idaho yard in the summer of 2020.

Potential punishments after Chad Daybell trial

Daybell also is charged with insurance fraud in connection with Tammy Daybell’s death and two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft by deception in the children’s deaths.

If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Daybell has pleaded not guilty. Last week, his attorney John Prior told KIVI-TV in Boise that his client is ready to go forward with the case and “wants to tell his story.”

Two days later, 7th District Judge Steven Boyce issued a gag order barring any of the attorneys or parties in the case from talking about it until after jury selection and opening statements.

The couple was originally scheduled to stand trial together, but in 2022 Prior asked the court to split the cases, saying the co-defendants will have “ mutually antagonistic defenses.” The legal term generally means a jury would have to disbelieve one defendant in order to believe the other.

“Our version of the facts of this case will differ greatly from what Ms. Vallow and her legal counsel are going to be presenting,” Prior told the judge, who later agreed to split the cases.

How is the case progressing?

Monday, the judge dismissed a couple of potential jurors because they said the long time commitment would present undue hardship. He asked the others if they were aware of Daybell’s case, had already decided his guilt or innocence or if they had any bias that might prevent them from being fair. Several indicated they had heard about the case, but only a couple said that they couldn’t be impartial.

Jury selection is expected to take about a week. Eighteen jurors will be picked, with six of them serving as alternates.

The grim case began in the fall of 2019, after extended family members noticed the two children seemingly had disappeared and prodded law enforcement to launch a search. The subsequent monthslong investigation spanned several states and took several unexpected turns.

Chad Daybell trial to dive into multiple crimes

Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell were having an affair when both of their spouses died unexpectedly, investigators learned. Vallow Daybell’s husband was shot to death by her brother in Arizona in July 2019 and the brother told police it was in self-defense.

Tammy Daybell died in her sleep in November 2019, the untimely death first chalked up to natural causes but later determined to be from asphyxiation, according to an autopsy. Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell married just two weeks after Tammy Daybell died, surprising family members and authorities.

Friends later told detectives that Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell also held unusual religious beliefs, including that they had been reincarnated and were tasked with gathering people before a biblical apocalypse.

Vallow Daybell referred to her two youngest kids as zombies before they vanished in September 2019, one friend would later testify during her trial, Gibb testified.

Prosecutors say Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell espoused those doomsday-focused beliefs to justify the deaths of her kids and his wife, but it was all part of a scheme to eliminate any obstacles to their relationship and to obtain money from survivor benefits and life insurance.

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Chad Daybell trial begins in case of man charged with deaths of wife, 2 children found buried in Idaho