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Idaho jury convicts Chad Daybell of murdering his wife and girlfriend’s two children – The Morning Call

By REBECCA BOONE (Associated Press)

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho man has been convicted of killing his wife and his new girlfriend’s two youngest children in a strange triple murder case that included claims of apocalyptic prophecies, zombie children and illegal business.

The jury deliberated just six hours before finding Chad Daybell guilty on all counts Thursday afternoon, concluding an investigation that began in 2019 and spanned at least four states. Now jurors will have to decide whether Daybell, 55, should die for the murders of Tammy Daybell, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow.

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

The nearly two-month trial is now entering its penalty phase, with prosecutors trying to show that the crimes merit a death sentence because they were particularly depraved, heinous or cruel or that they involve one of the other “aggravating factors” included in state law are described. Daybell’s defense, meanwhile, will attempt to provide the jury with mitigating circumstances that could show a lighter sentence is more appropriate to the panel.

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 ensuing investigation took some unexpected turns.

Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell were having an affair when both of their husbands died unexpectedly, investigators said. Vallow Daybell’s husband was shot and killed 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 children JJ and Tylee, and Cox then moved to eastern Idaho to be closer to Daybell, a self-published writer of doomsday-oriented fiction loosely based on Mormon teachings.

In October 2019, Tammy Daybell passed away. Chad Daybell initially told police she suffered from an illness and died in her sleep, but an autopsy later determined she died of asphyxiation. Chad Daybell and Vallow Daybell got 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 that 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 have 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 remove all obstacles to their relationship and 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 to leave the possessed body die.

Fremont County Prosecutor Lindsay Blake said Daybell called himself a leader of what he called “The Church of the Firstborn” and told Vallow Daybell and others he could determine whether 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 “mortality rate,” Blake said.

With these elements, Daybell followed a pattern for each of the deaths, Blake said.

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

Blake also said that Daybell manipulated Vallow Daybell and her brother Cox into helping with the plan, sometimes bestowing “spiritual blessings” on Cox and Vallow warning Daybell that the angels were angry because she sometimes ignored him.

Daybell’s attorney, John Prior, rejected the prosecutor’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 spoke about his spiritual beliefs every chance he got.

Prior said police were only looking for things they could use against Daybell rather than the actual facts of the case — and he claimed the children’s deceased uncle, Cox, committed the crimes. He noted that Cox had previously killed JJ Vallow’s father in Arizona and that the two children were the only witnesses to that shooting. He also said Cox tried to frame Daybell by burying the murdered children in Daybell’s yard in eastern Idaho.

Witnesses from both sides agreed that Chad Daybell and Vallow Daybell had an affair that began long before Tammy Daybell died.

Defense witnesses included Dr. Kathy Raven, a forensic pathologist who reviewed Tammy Daybell’s autopsy reports and said she believes the cause of death should have been classified as “undetermined.”

Chad Daybell’s son, Garth Daybell, told jurors he was home the night his mother died and heard no disturbance. He said he later felt like police officers and prosecutors tried to pressure him to change his story, at one point even threatening him with perjury charges.

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