Home World Chad Daybell convicted of killing ex-wife, girlfriend’s 2 kids

Chad Daybell convicted of killing ex-wife, girlfriend’s 2 kids

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By Rebecca Boone | Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho — An Idaho man was convicted Thursday of killing his wife and his new girlfriend’s two youngest kids in a strange triple murder case that included claims of apocalyptic prophesies, zombie children and illicit affairs.

The jury deliberated just six hours before finding Chad Daybell guilty on all counts, capping a case that began in 2019 and spanned at least four states. Daybell, standing and wearing a long-sleeve dress shirt, was stoic as the verdicts were read.

Now jurors will be tasked with deciding if Daybell, 55, should die for the murders of Tammy Daybell, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow. Family members of the victims stayed in the courtroom with the trial’s penalty phase set for Thursday afternoon.

The childrens’ mother, Lori Vallow Daybell, was sentenced to life in prison without parole on the same conspiracy and murder charges last year. She married Chad Daybell just two weeks after Tammy Daybell was killed.

The case drew widespread media attention, and the judge moved the trial from the rural eastern Idaho community where the killings occurred to Boise, Idaho, in an effort to ensure a fair and impartial jury.

The nearly two-month trial now enters the penalty phase, with prosecutors attempting to show that the crimes merit a death sentence because they were especially depraved, heinous or cruel or that they meet one of the other “aggravating factors” detailed in state law. Daybell’s defense, meanwhile, will try to provide the jury with mitigating circumstances that could show the panel a lighter sentence is more appropriate.

The case began in September 2019, when extended family members reported the two children missing and law enforcement officials launched a search that spanned several states. The subsequent investigation took several unexpected turns.

Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell were having an affair when both of their spouses died unexpectedly, investigators said. Vallow Daybell’s husband was shot to death by her brother Alex Cox in Arizona in July 2019; the brother told police it was in self-defense. He was not charged.

Vallow Daybell, her kids JJ and Tylee, and Cox subsequently moved to eastern Idaho to be closer to Daybell, a self-published writer of doomsday-focused fiction loosely based on Mormon teachings.

In October 2019, Tammy Daybell died. Chad Daybell initially told police she was battling an illness and died in her sleep, but an autopsy later determined that she died of asphyxiation. Chad Daybell and Vallow Daybell married just two weeks after Tammy Daybell died, surprising family members.

Nearly a year after the children went missing, their remains were found buried on Chad Daybell’s property in eastern Idaho. Investigators later determined both children died in September 2019. Prosecutors say Cox conspired with Chad Daybell and Vallow Daybell in all three deaths, but Cox died of natural causes during the investigation and was never charged.

Prosecutors called dozens of witnesses to bolster their claims that Chad Daybell and Vallow Daybell conspired to kill the two children and Tammy Daybell because they wanted to get rid of any obstacles to their relationship and to obtain money from survivor benefits and life insurance. Prosecutors say the couple justified the killings by creating an apocalyptic belief system that people could be possessed by evil spirits and turned into “zombies,” and that the only way to save a possessed person’s soul was for the possessed body to die.

Fremont County prosecutor Lindsay Blake said Daybell styled himself a leader of what he called “The Church of the Firstborn” and told Vallow Daybell and others that he could determine if someone had become a “zombie.” Daybell also claimed to be able to determine how close a person was to death by reading what he called their “death percentage,” Blake said.

With these elements, Daybell followed a pattern for each of those who were killed, Blake said.

“They would be labeled as ‘dark’ by Chad Daybell. Their ‘death percentage’ would drop. Then they would have to die,” she said in her closing argument.

Blake also said Daybell manipulated Vallow Daybell and her brother, Cox, into helping with the plan, at times bestowing ‘spiritual blessings’ on Cox and warning Vallow Daybell that the angels were angry because she was at times ignoring him.

Daybell’s defense attorney, John Prior, rejected the prosecution’s descriptions of Daybell’s beliefs. He described Daybell as a traditional member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a deeply religious man who talked about his spiritual beliefs every chance he could get.



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