Update: On Friday, May 12, Lori Vallow Daybell was found guilty on all counts.

Lori Vallow Daybell, in her pursuit of money, power and sex, “set in motion a series of events that led to three horrific murders,” prosecutors said on Thursday during an impassioned closing argument that marked the final day of the high profile trial.

“This plan that she set in motion must end today, in a verdict you will deliver in this trial,” Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood told jurors.

Lori Vallow Daybell guilty of murder

For six weeks more than 60 witnesses took the stand, painting a damning picture of Vallow Daybell. They described her as a once loving mother, whose spiral coincided with an obsession over fringe beliefs espoused by her now husband, Chad Daybell. Those beliefs, Wood said, were used to manipulate others and justify their crimes. They called people “zombies” who they believed were possessed, and would attempt to “cast out” evil spirits.

“Lori knew exactly what was going on. ... She was 100% involved in this, and all the evidence tells us that,” Wood said.

A 12-person jury is now considering the case. The group deliberated about four and a half hours before recessing for the night. They will resume deliberations Friday morning.

Prosecutors say Lori Vallow Daybell was motivated by ‘money, power and sex’ as murder trial begins
5 takeaways from the first week of testimony in Lori Vallow Daybell’s murder trial

Vallow Daybell’s attorneys, who offered only a brief statement at the opening of the trial and did not call any witnesses, presented the bulk of their case Thursday. In their emotional closing argument, they said it was Vallow Daybell who was manipulated.

“The story of Lori Vallow, as you’ve heard, changes dramatically in October 2018,” her attorney James Archibald said Thursday. He described his client’s bizarre beliefs as “just goofy stuff” and “religious babble,” also claiming that “Lori sees Chad as if Chad is Jesus.”

“Why can’t people escape religious cult figures? Why can’t they break out? Why can’t they break away from that mind control? Promises are hopeful to some people,” he told the jury.

Vallow Daybell faces six charges: two counts of first-degree murder of her children, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old JJ Vallow; two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder; and grand theft in connection to their deaths. She is also charged with grand theft for collecting Social Security benefits allocated to the children, and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft in the death of Tammy Daybell.

After a monthslong search that drew the attention of the nation as Vallow Daybell lied or refused to answer questions about their whereabouts, her children were found buried on Chad Daybell’s Rexburg property. A specific cause of death could not be determined for Tylee, whose body was burned and dismembered. JJ died by asphyxiation, investigators said, after they found his body bound with plastic bags and duct tape.

Chad Daybell is also charged in the murders and will face his own trial. Alex Cox, Vallow Daybell’s brother who is believed to be an accomplice in the deaths, died of blood clots before charges were filed.

Not long after Tammy Daybell’s death, which investigators say was a homicide by asphyxiation, Chad Daybell and Vallow Daybell were “dancing on a beach in Hawaii,” Wood said, “free from the obstacles that were Tylee, JJ, and Tammy. But living with the money that was gained from each of their deaths.” 

The idea of a mother celebrating at a beach resort while her children remained missing shocked the country. The story went viral, and when Vallow Daybell was eventually arrested in February 2020, her now infamous mugshot was displayed everywhere from local Idaho media outlets to The New York Times.

Vallow Daybell’s apparent apathy toward the well-being of her missing children was integral to Wood’s closing argument. He leaned heavily into the conspiracy angle, reminding the jury that they only need to find one “overt act” that shows Vallow Daybell furthered the conspiracy to kill her children and Tammy Daybell. He summarized the weeks of evidence, including texts that he said showed Vallow Daybell eagerly anticipating her children’s death.

“There is one common thread throughout these murders — Lori Vallow. She is the one person who ties this all together,” Wood said, telling the jury that she used sex to manipulate Chad Daybell, and religion to manipulate Alex Cox.

“It does not matter what they believed. It matters what they did. They can believe whatever they want. But when they use that to justify homicide, that changes. They used religion to manipulate others,” he said.

Former friend says Lori Vallow Daybell told her she’d been ‘at the scene’ as someone died
FBI agent: Texts between Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell show the couple anticipating children’s deaths

But during the defense’s closing argument, Archibald painted a much different picture of Vallow Daybell, describing her as someone with good intentions, who was manipulated by a cult leader. Right after she met Chad Daybell, he told the jury, four people died.

He said the state’s argument that she was chasing money doesn’t hold. Charles Vallow made far more money than Chad Daybell — money that exceeded what she would make from his Social Security payments. “The math doesn’t add up,” Archibald said.

He made the same argument for “power” — “In the year that Chad convinced her that she was a sexual goddess and that she was going to lead the 144,000 ... how many converts did she have? None,” he said.

And with sex, Archibald made a point that evoked laughter from the overflow room at the Boise courthouse.

“Use your common sense, look at pictures of Charles, and pictures of Chad ... is that a trade up, or a trade down?” Archibald said.

He also said that Vallow Daybell’s hair that was found on the duct tape used to bound JJ wasn’t a “smoking gun,” and told the mothers on the jury: “I would hope that your hair is on your kids clothing, your kids sock, your kids blanket.”

And in a point he reiterated again and again, Archibald asked the jurors to consider the texts they saw as evidence.

“Of the 15,000 texts that you have as evidence, show me one where it says from Lori ‘when are you killing Tylee?’ ... Show me one that shows Lori a part of that conspiracy,” he said. “There is no such text.”  

And before he thanked the jury for their service and walked back to his seat, he told them: “She spent her whole life protecting her children.”

FBI agent: Texts between Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell show the couple anticipating children’s deaths
The internet search from Alex Cox that caught an investigator’s attention

Wood offered a brief rebuttal, addressing Archibald’s claim that Lori wasn’t after money, reminding the jury that at the time of Charles Vallow’s death, Vallow Daybell thought she would receive $1 million from his life insurance policy. He focused on the lies, reading a laundry list of false statements she gave — including where Tylee was going to college, how her husband Charles Vallow died, and where her children were.

“The innocent don’t need to lie. The guilty lie,” he said.

He also pushed back on Archibald’s claim that the hair found on JJ’s body was not a “smoking gun.”

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“It wasn’t on JJ’s socks. It wasn’t on his pajamas. ... It was on the duct tape that secured that bag that was placed over his head,” he said.

And despite there being no text where Vallow Daybell explicitly talked about killing the children, Wood pointed to the bevy of messages that showed her repeatedly asking Chad Daybell to calculate their “death percentages.”

“When Chad Daybell is texting her about JJ going into the light, we all know what that means,” he said, telling the jury that in response, “she doesn’t say ‘Let’s not go kill the kids.’ She says, ‘That is sweet.’”  

“It makes no sense to say that she’s a good mom when she’s not reporting the death of her children, or that her children are missing,” he continued. “You have the evidence, you must convict her.”

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