Money, power, sex: Attorney in U.S. murder trial says slain kids’ mom used all 3

Mother charged with triple murder of her two youngest children A prosecutor told jurors Monday morning, as well as her new husband’s ex-wife, are willing to “remove any barriers that stand in the way of her getting what she wants.”

“Defendant used money, power and sex to get what she wanted,” said Fremont County Attorney Lindsay Blake. “It doesn’t matter what it is.”

Prosecutors charge Lori Vallow Daybell and her husband, Chad Daybell, with multiple counts conspiracy, murder and theft Linked to the deaths of Vallow Daybell’s two youngest children: 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and sister Tylee Ryan, last seen days before her 17th birthday in 2019. Prosecutors also charged the couple with the October 2019 death of Chad Daybell’s late wife, Tammy Daybell.

Both defendants have pleaded not guilty but are being tried separately. Chad Daybell’s trial is still months away. If convicted, Vallow Daybell faces life in prison.

The children disappeared a few months ago their remains were found buried Black told jurors in Chad Daybell’s yard in eastern Idaho.

“Charred remains, that’s what Teri left behind,” prosecutors said, showing jurors a photograph of human remains partially covered by a patch of dirt. “You’ll hear it interpreted as a mass of bones and tissue. That’s what’s left of this beautiful young woman.”

Black said JJ’s body was wrapped in garbage bags and duct tape – which bound his arms in front of him and wrapped around his head.

The children and Chad Daybell’s ex-wife, Tammy Daybell, were killed because they got in the way of the couple’s relationship, Blake said.

“Remember, the defendant removes any barriers that stand in the way of her getting what she wants, and she wants Chad Daybell,” Black said.

Defense attorney Jim Archibald presented a very different picture to jurors, describing Vallo Daybell as a “loving and loving mother to her children” who happened to be very vocal about religion and the Bible involving the end of the world Prophecy is of particular interest.

“Some people don’t care much about biblical prophecy, and some people care a lot about it,” Archibald said. “Thankfully, in this country we can worship as we choose.”

Vallow Daybell was presumed innocent, Archibald reminded jurors, and said the criminal charge itself — accusing Vallow Daybell of directing, encouraging, aiding or participating in the murder — suggested that prosecutors didn’t really know what happened in the case.

“Was she killing, or assisting, or encouraging, or directing? They weren’t sure,” Archibald said.

Archibald also said that Vallow Daybell’s religious beliefs only began to change after he met Chad Daybell, a religious author whose fictional books focus on the end of the world and are loosely based on the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints .

But Blake said those beliefs were taken to extremes, with the couple saying people were “dark” or “light” and telling friends and acquaintances that “dark” people had been possessed by evil spirits. They eventually started teaching friends that once those evil spirits were strong enough, the person would turn into a “zombie” and that the only way to free that person’s soul was to kill them.

Friends of Vallow Daybell will testify that she said the children and Tammy Daybell were “dark” before their deaths, Black said. According to police records, at least one friend told police that Vallo Daybell referred to both children as “zombies” before they disappeared.

“The common theme is that the body must be destroyed,” Black said. “Defendants and Chad used their professed religious teachings to justify their actions to others — their actions met murder from the outside.”

JJ Vallow’s grandmother, Kay Woodcock, was the first witness to testify after public argument. She burst into tears after Madison County Attorney Rob Wood showed her a photo of JJ taken when he was about 5 or 6 years old, wearing a seatbelt in his car.

“That’s my beautiful grandson, JJ,” she said.

Woodcock said Vallow Daybell was once a “doting mother” but her view of the accused changed after Charles Vallow filed for divorce in early 2019. The number of phone calls and visits she used to have with JJ on a regular basis decreased after Charles Vallow died, she said.

Woodcock said she only had contact with JJ three times after her father’s death, all through brief FaceTime calls. She said the last call took place a month before the last time JJ was seen alive. It’s only about 35 seconds long.

“He just said, ‘Hi Mom, Hi Dad,'” Woodcock said, referring to the nickname JJ gave his grandparents. “‘Got to go, Mom. Time to go, Dad. Goodbye!'”

Woodcock eventually contacted law enforcement and asked them to conduct a welfare check on JJ. When police couldn’t find either of the children, they started a missing persons case.

Rexburg police began their investigation in November 2019. During that time, the couple lied about the child’s whereabouts, police said.

Prosecutors said the couple planned to use life insurance payments from Tammy Daybell after his death, while Vallow Daybell continued to collect and spend their Social Security and survivor benefits after their children died. Tylee’s father died a few years ago after divorcing Vallow Daybell. JJ’s father, Charles Wallow – whom Vallow Daybell married when he met Chad Daybell – was shot and killed by Wallow Daybell’s brother, Alex Cox.

Vallow Daybell has been charged in Arizona in connection with Charles Vallow’s death but has yet to enter a plea. Cox, who died months after the shooting and was never charged, told police the shooting was in self-defense.

The couple married two weeks after the unexpected death of Chad Daybell’s ex-wife. An autopsy showed Tammy Daybell died of asphyxiation, Blake said Monday.

She said the couple had removed “every barrier that stood in the way of them wanting to get what they wanted”.

—Rebecca Boone, Associated Press

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