SALT LAKE CITY — Chad Daybell pleaded not guilty Friday to charges accusing him of hiding the bodies of his wife’s two children that were recovered from his rural Idaho yard in June.
It’s the latest turn in a bizarre case that has delved into Chad and Lori Daybell’s rumored apocalyptic religious beliefs and the deaths of their former spouses.
Seventh District Magistrate Judge Steven Boyce in St. Anthony, Idaho, set a three-week trial for Chad Daybell to begin Jan. 11 on four charges he faces: two felony counts of concealing, altering or destroying evidence and two felony counts of conspiracy to hide evidence.
Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and his sister, Tylee Ryan, 17, had been missing since September 2019. Lori Vallow Daybell was first arrested in Hawaii in February after failing to tell authorities the whereabouts of her children.
Lori Daybell has also pleaded not guilty to conspiring to help Chad Daybell keep the children’s bodies hidden.
So far, no one has been charged in the deaths of the children.
Chad Daybell, sporting a white shirt and red tie, did not speak in the brief hearing held over video except to answer questions from a judge. He appeared to be tuning in with his attorney from jail.
Daybell was ordered to stand trial earlier this month following a preliminary hearing where prosecutors laid out the evidence against him.
Police serving a search warrant June 9 uncovered the human remains in Salem, Idaho, with JJ’s body found in a black plastic bag and his wrists and ankles bound with duct tape. Tylee Ryan’s remains appeared to have been burned, police said.
Chad Daybell was arrested that day following the grim discovery.
If convicted, each charge he faces carries up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $10,000. He returns to court for a pretrial hearing on Dec. 10.
Chad and Lori Daybell 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 Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell wed.
In Arizona, Lori Vallow’s brother shot and killed her estranged husband, Charles Vallow, before dying of a blood clot in his lungs.
The Daybells have been involved in an Idaho-based group that promotes preparing for the biblical end of times. Unsealed court documents say the Daybells believe their mission includes leading the “144,000” and ridding “the world of ‘zombies.’’’
Around the same time her two children disappeared, court documents say Lori Daybell told her friend Melanie Gibb the kids had become “zombies,” their bodies overtaken by dark spirits that could be vanquished only by death, reflecting a teaching of Chad Daybell.
Lori Daybell is accused of asking her friend Melanie Gibb to say JJ was with her when the boy was not.
She is due in court Sept. 10 for arraignment. Prosecutors have also charged her with conspiracy to hide evidence and misdemeanor charges of obstructing an investigation, solicitation and contempt.