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Three dead bodies and a thirst for money and sex: Prosecutors lay out Chad Daybell death penalty case

Three dead bodies. Found on Chad Daybell’s property.

It’s how Fremont County Prosecuting Attorney Lindsey Blake began her closing arguments in the self-proclaimed prophet’s death penalty trial on Wednesday.

The impactful words followed a snippet of a recorded jail phone call between Mr Daybell and Lori Vallow in June 2020 while authorities searched his backyard where they would later find the mutilated bodies of her children buried in shallow graves.

“Two of them are children. His mistress’ kids,” Ms Blake told the jurors in the Ada County courtroom in Boise, Idaho.

“And for what? Money, power and sex.”

Prosecutors say it was Mr Daybell’s “desire for sex, power, and money” that led to the killings of Tammy Daybell, and Vallow’s children, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow.

The bodies of Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow and Tylee Ryan, were found buried on Chad Daybell’s property
The bodies of Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow and Tylee Ryan, were found buried on Chad Daybell’s property (AP)

In October 2019, the first of those three bodies on Mr Daybell’s property was his then-wife Tammy, who was found dead in her room of what was initially believed to be from natural causes.

It was only after Vallow’s children were reported missing – and authorities began delving into Mr Daybell and Vallow’s bizarre cult beliefs – that questions began being asked about Tammy’s death too.

In December 2019, investigators exhumed her body for an autopsy and it was determined that she had died from asphyxiation, not of natural causes.

Just two weeks after Tammy’s death, Mr Daybell and Vallow were married on a beach in Hawaii, raising suspicion among local law enforcement officials.

It was all part of the “plan” to rid their life of the obstacles that stood in their way of being together, Ms Blake told the court on Wednesday as she laid out the case.

The religious book author who wrote about the “End Times,” used his extreme religious beliefs to justify the crimes and his affair with Vallow was led by his desire for sex, the prosecution argued.

“This was about sex,” Ms Blake said, pointing to the “James and Elena” story Mr Daybell created that mirrored the couple’s affair.

“This is about his boundless lust for Lori. He never intended to divorce Tammy. But he wanted to be married to Lori. They would advance together as translated beings.”

Investigators searched Daybell’s Idaho backyard in June 2020, nine months after the children vanished
Investigators searched Daybell’s Idaho backyard in June 2020, nine months after the children vanished (Post Register no sales no mags)

During the trial, prosecutors presented testimony from Vallow’s niece, Melani Pawlowski, who said the couple believed that people could be possessed by evil spirits, rendering the person a “zombie.” They said that zombies would eventually be overcome by the dark spirit and die, she said.

Her testimony echoed that given last year by another friend of the couple, Melanie Gibb. Gibb testified during Vallow’s trial that she heard Vallow call the two kids “zombies” before they vanished.

They were also presented with dozens of cellphone records and messages between Mr Daybell and Vallow, including one in which Mr Daybell allegedly told her that JJ was “barely attached to his body” and that there “is a plan being orchestrated for the children.”

In closing, Ms Blake told the jury that all Mr Daybell had to do was advise, encourage, plan the murder to be found guilty of the murder charge.

Photos of the victims appeared on a screen as family members in the courtroom wiped tears from their eyes.

They all became dark and “we know what happened,” Ms Blake said. “All three victims were gone too soon.”

Mr Daybell’s defense attorney John Prior, however, has argued that there simply isn’t enough evidence to conclusively tie Mr Daybell to the deaths, or even to prove that his late wife, Tammy, was killed instead of dying from natural causes.

He said his client was manipulated by Vallow who he described in opening statements as a voracious and “very sexual” woman who lured him to do her bidding.

“This beautifully stunning woman named Lori Vallow comes up and she starts giving him a lot of attention,” Mr Prior said of the couple’s first meeting at a religious convention in October 2019. “She pursued him. She encouraged him.”

The defense said Daybell was manipulated by Vallow who he described in opening statements as a voracious and “very sexual” woman who lured him to do her bidding
The defense said Daybell was manipulated by Vallow who he described in opening statements as a voracious and “very sexual” woman who lured him to do her bidding (AP)

Last year, Vallow was convicted of the three murders and sentenced to life in prison. Jurors heard how she, Mr Daybell and Vallow’s late brother Alex Cox were fuelled, in part, by their bizarre cult beliefs. Cox died of natural causes during the investigation and was never charged.

Over the past two months, jurors at the courthouse have listened to testimony from dozens of witnesses that, at times, turned bizarre and gruesome.

There were 67 witnesses called for the prosecution, six of whom were called back, while the defense called 11 witnesses, including two of Mr Daybell’s adult children. Six rebuttal witnesses were also called.

Mr Daybell’s son, Garth Daybell, and his daughter Emma Daybell Murray, both testified that their mother had been fatigued and sickly before she died.

Tammy and Chad Daybell were married in 1990. He is now accused of conspiring with Lori Vallow to kill her
Tammy and Chad Daybell were married in 1990. He is now accused of conspiring with Lori Vallow to kill her (Facebook)

Garth told jurors he was home the night his mother died and that he heard no disturbances from his bedroom next to his parents’ room, but later only heard Mr Daybell snoring.

He said he later felt like police officers and prosecutors were trying to pressure him to change his story, even threatening him with perjury charges at one point.

In his testimony on the stand, Garth told the court that if there had been a struggle or fight, he would have heard it. But he said he heard nothing.

The next morning, his father called him to help and he rushed to the room to find his mother halfway off the bed and not breathing.

“I felt she was cold and stiff and gray,” he recalled. “I realized she had been not breathing.”

However, rebuttal witness Jason Abegelen, who worked with Garth at a haunted house, recalled a different story. He told the court that Garth told him how he found his mother dead in the bedroom and that his father was not there.

Defense witnesses also included Dr Kathy Raven, a forensic pathologist who reviewed reports from Tammy Daybell’s autopsy and said she believed the cause of death should have been classified as “undetermined.”

Daybell has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Like Vallow, Mr Daybell himself never took the stand in his own defense.

If convicted, he faces the death penalty or life in prison.


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