An attorney for Lori Vallow Daybell is appealing her conviction to the Idaho Supreme Court, questioning whether the mother now serving a life sentence for murdering her children was mentally fit to stand trial, according to court documents.
Jim Archibald, her defense attorney during the trial, listed 16 issues he intends to raise during the appeal in a motion filed last week, the first questioning if Vallow Daybell “after spending 10 months in a mental hospital, was competent to stand trial?”
Vallow Daybell was sentenced to life in prison last month for the murder of her two youngest children, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old JJ Vallow.
She was also given a life sentence for conspiracy to commit murder in connection to the death of Tammy Daybell, the spouse of Chad Daybell, whom she later married.
Judge Steven Boyce determined that the life sentences for the murders would all run consecutively, saying that three separate murders had happened at three separate times, and that Vallow Daybell should be held responsible for each of them.
In addition, Vallow Daybell received two life sentences for conspiring to murder her children and 10 years for grand theft, with those prison terms running concurrently to the life sentences for the three murder convictions.
Archibald, in the motion, claims there were a number of issues during the trial, some revolving around Vallow Daybell’s mental competency. He questions an April 2022 decision by the court determining Vallow Daybell was fit to stand trial, and the court denying the defense’s request in November 2022 to send her back to a mental hospital.
“Was the defendant’s constitutional and statutory right to a speedy trial violated by the government’s repeated requests for a continuance?” Archibald writes.
Some of the trial record is sealed, according to Archibald, including all of Vallow Daybell’s mental health reports and a presentence report given to Boyce in August that included a mental evaluation.
Boyce said during the sentencing that Vallow Daybell did not comply with the presentence report, and told Vallow Daybell it would have provided more information for him to consider about her mental state.
Boyce did refer to a diagnosis completed in February that suggests Vallow Daybell suffers from “delusional disorder mixed-type with bizarre content and hyper-religiosity, continuous and unspecified personality disorder with ... narcissistic features.”
In the appeal, Archibald requests the entire court transcript, and additional records related to Vallow Daybell’s mental health, including “the hearings on defendant’s competency to stand trial” and “the hearings to determine if defendant should be sent back to the mental hospital.”
He asks whether a new sentencing hearing should be held “due to the sentencing court not reviewing all mitigation evidence submitted by the defense” and questions if the state made a “fundamental reversible error in its opening statement to the jury.”
In September 2019, Vallow Daybell’s two children disappeared. It was later discovered that they had been murdered and buried in a shallow grave behind the Rexburg home of Chad Daybell, the man she was believed to be having an affair with and the apparent source of her fringe religious beliefs.
Then in October 2019, Daybell’s wife, Tammy, was killed by what investigators said was asphyxiation in her sleep, though at the time her death was ruled natural. Just two weeks later, while her children were still unaccounted for, Lori Vallow married Chad Daybell on a beach in Hawaii.
That December, Tammy Daybell’s body was exhumed, and Tylee and JJ were declared missing. A court ordered Vallow Daybell to produce her children by Jan. 30, 2020. When she failed to comply, she was arrested in Hawaii about four weeks later.
On June 9, 2020, police executed a search warrant and found the bodies of Tylee and JJ buried in Daybell’s backyard. Chad Daybell was arrested that day.
Vallow Daybell’s trial lasted weeks and throughout much of it, she remained silent and often showed little emotion. But before the sentence was handed down in August, she spoke.
“I know for a fact that my children are happy and busy in the spirit world. Because of my communications with my friend Tammy Daybell, I know that she is also very happy and busy. I have always mourned the loss of my loved ones and I have lost many in this mortal world,” a tearful Daybell said.
Vallow Daybell went on to describe visits she’s had from the spirits of her murdered children and Tammy Daybell, all of whom she said visited her on several occasions. At no time did she apologize or express remorse for what happened.
“The first time JJ visited me after he passed away he put his arm around me and said to me ‘you didn’t do anything wrong, Mom. I love you and I know you loved me every minute of my life.’ JJ was an adult spirit and he was very tall when he put his arm around me. ... He’s busy, engaged, he has jobs he’s doing there, he’s happy where he lives,” she said.
But ultimately, Vallow Daybell’s closing reinforced Boyce’s belief that she was unapologetic, and deserved a life sentence.
“You justified all of this by going down a bizarre, religious rabbit hole and clearly you are still down there,” he said.