Jurors weigh death penalty after finding 'doomsday' stepdad Chad Daybell guilty in 3 murders

The sentencing phase of Daybell's trial began shortly after the guilty verdict was delivered.

BySteve Almasy, Taylor Romine and Ray Sanchez, CNN CNNWire logo
Saturday, June 1, 2024
Jurors weigh death penalty after finding doomsday stepdad Chad Daybell guilty in 3 murders
A day after delivering a guilty verdict in Chad Daybell's murder trial, an Idaho jury will reconvene to weigh whether he will face the death penalty.

BOISE, Idaho -- Our coverage of this story has moved here.

A day after delivering a guilty verdict in Chad Daybell's murder trial, an Idaho jury will reconvene Friday to weigh whether he will face the death penalty.

Daybell was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder and conspiracy charges in the deaths of his first wife, Tammy Daybell and two of his second wife's children - 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old Joshua "JJ" Vallow - in a case prosecutors claim was fueled by power, sex, money and apocalyptic spiritual beliefs.

The sentencing phase of Daybell's trial began shortly after the guilty verdict was delivered, with state Judge Steven Boyce giving jurors preliminary instructions. Proceedings are scheduled to resume Friday morning. The state is seeking the death penalty.

The verdict came about a year after Daybell's second wife, Lori Vallow Daybell, was also convicted of the murder of her children and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. She was also convicted of conspiring to kill Tammy Daybell. Vallow Daybell has appealed her convictions to the state Supreme Court, with her legal team raising the issue of whether she was mentally competent to stand trial.

Authorities have said they believe Tylee and JJ were killed in September 2019 - the month they were last reported to have been seen - and that Tammy Daybell was found dead in her Idaho home on October 19, 2019, a few weeks before Chad Daybell married Vallow Daybell.

Law enforcement found the remains of Tylee and JJ on Chad Daybell's Fremont County property in June 2020, authorities said.

"It's a sad day. JJ would have been 12 years old," JJ's grandfather, Larry Woodcock, said after Thursday's verdict.

Woodcock remembered the victims, and asked the same question, over and over.

"What did they accomplish? Nothing. What did they do? They destroyed families," Woodcock said of Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell.

But the defendants, Woodcock said, could not destroy the memories relatives have of the victims. "They can't take that," he added, growing emotional at one point. When he heard the jury verdict in court, he said, he felt like he couldn't breathe.

'Sex, money and power' were key focuses in the trial

During opening statements, the prosecutor and defense attorney painted contrasting portraits of the defendant.

The state described him as a power-hungry and grandiose man who would stop at nothing for "what he considered his rightful destiny." His defense lawyer portrayed Daybell as a religious man driven into an unfortunate relationship by a "beautiful, vivacious woman" who knew "how to get what she wants."

"Two dead children buried in the defendant Chad Daybell's backyard," prosecutor Rob Wood said in his first words to the jury.

"The next month his wife is found dead in their marital bed. Seventeen days after the death of his wife, Tammy Daybell, this defendant is photographed laughing and dancing on a beach in Hawaii at his wedding to Lori Vallow, a woman who was his mistress and the mother of the children buried in the graves on his property. Three dead bodies."

When Daybell "had a chance at what he considered his rightful destiny," Wood said, he "made sure that no person and no law would stand in his way."

"His desire for sex, money and power led him to pursue those ambitions," the prosecutor added. "And this pursuit led to the deaths of his wife and Lori's two innocent children."

Tammy Daybell was initially believed to have died in her sleep, and Chad Daybell remarried less than three weeks after her death in 2019.

Prior, the defense attorney, said Daybell's life began to change after he met Vallow Daybell, a "beautifully stunning woman" who "starts giving him a lot of attention" and eventually lured him into an "inappropriate" and "unfortunate" extramarital relationship.

Vallow Daybell's two children from a previous marriage were last seen on different days in September 2019. Tylee Ryan was a "normal, vibrant teenage girl" who loved her friends and her little brother, JJ, was on the autism spectrum and required special care, according to Wood.

In late November 2019, relatives asked police in Rexburg, Idaho, to do a welfare check on JJ because they hadn't talked to him recently. Police didn't find him at the family's house but did see Vallow Daybell and Daybell, who said JJ was staying with a family friend in Arizona, according to authorities.

When police returned with a search warrant the next day, the couple was gone. They were ultimately found in Hawaii in January 2020.

In June 2020, law enforcement officials found the remains of Tylee and JJ on Daybell's property in Fremont County, Idaho. Vallow Daybell and Daybell were indicted on murder charges in May 2021.

Tylee was believed to have been killed between September 8 and 9, 2019, and JJ between September 22 and 23, according to prosecutors.

"We are filled with unfathomable sadness that these two bright stars were stolen from us, and only hope that they died without pain or suffering," the families of the children said in a statement after the remains were found.

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