Judge orders single trial over 2 children’s deaths for Chad and Lori Daybell
Chad Daybell and Lori Daybell were charged separately with working together to keep children’s remains hidden
SALT LAKE CITY — A judge in Idaho Falls has combined Lori and Chad Daybell’s upcoming trials into one, citing the difficulty of seating juries because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Seventh District Judge Steven Boyce sided with prosecutors in wrapping the cases into one. The state argued the Daybells are accused in the same plot to keep her children’s bodies hidden from authorities, saying a single trial would be more efficient and less of a burden on the kids’ families.
“Separate cases absolutely means more hearings, more media coverage and more difficulty in finding a suitable jury,” Rob Wood, special prosecuting attorney for Fremont County, Idaho, argued in the hearing held via videoconference.
Investigators uncovered the remains of Joshua “JJ” Vallow and his sister, Tylee Ryan, in Chad Daybell’s yard in Salem, Idaho, in June. The bizarre case has drawn attention from around the world to the couple’s rumored apocalyptic religious beliefs and the deaths of their former spouses.
Boyce wasn’t persuaded by Chad Daybell’s argument that jurors could make inferences based on Vallow or other witnesses that could unfairly bias his client. He said the prospect of duplicative hearings in coming months and two separate jury trials is “quite concerning” because of COVID-19 restrictions.
The state’s Supreme Court has allowed jury trials to take place if the seven-day average in a county is below 25 per 100,000 and new cases have dipped or held steady. If cases have risen from two weeks prior, the limit is 14 per 100,000.
Chad Daybell’s defense attorney, John Prior, had argued that “linking the two of these folks together is still going to provide a modicum of prejudice.” He said he may file a motion to separate the cases again after he sifts through more evidence.
Attorneys for Lori Vallow Daybell have said they don’t object to the cases being combined.
The Daybells both have pleaded not guilty to two felony charges alleging that they worked together to keep evidence hidden. Chad Daybell faces two more counts of destroying or hiding evidence.
Lori Daybell was first arrested in Hawaii in February after failing to tell authorities the whereabouts of her children. Joshua was 7 and Tylee 17 at the time they vanished.
Police serving a search warrant June 9 uncovered the human remains, with JJ’s body found in a black plastic bag and his wrists and ankles bound with duct tape. Tylee’s remains appeared to have been burned, court documents say. Chad Daybell was arrested that day.
The Daybells are also being investigated by the Idaho Attorney General’s Office in the death of Chad Daybell’s former wife, Tammy Daybell. She died about two weeks before he married his new wife.
In Arizona, Lori Daybell’s brother Alex Cox shot and killed her estranged husband, Charles Vallow, before dying of a blood clot in his lungs. Authorities also tracked Cox’s cellphone data to the parts of Chad Daybell’s yard where the children’s remains were uncovered.