Chad Daybell sentenced to death for killing wife and girlfriend’s 2 children in jury decision

A jury in Idaho has unanimously agreed that convicted killer Chad Daybell deserves the death penalty for the gruesome murders of his wife and his girlfriend’s two youngest children

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A jury in Idaho unanimously agreed Saturday that convicted killer Chad Daybell deserves the death penalty for the gruesome murders of his wife and his girlfriend's two youngest children, ending a grim case that began in 2019 with a search for two missing children.

The 55-year-old Daybell, wearing a dress shirt and tie, sat with his hands in his lap at the defense table. He showed no emotion when learning he would face the death penalty for the murders of Tammy Daybell, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow.

When asked by the judge whether he wanted to make a statement, Daybell declined.

Jurors found him guilty Thursday and decided on the death sentence after deliberating for just over a day.

The mother of the children is Lori Vallow Daybell, whom Chad Daybell married shortly after his wife's death. Vallow Daybell was convicted last year in the three murders and is now awaiting trial in Arizona, charged with murder in connection with the shooting death of her fourth husband, Charles Vallow. Charles Vallow was JJ's father.

The case began in 2019, when a family member called police. Investigators soon realized both children were missing, and a multistate search ensued. Nearly a year later, their remains were found buried on Chad Daybell's property. Tylee's DNA was later found on a pickaxe and shovel in a shed on the property, and JJ's body was wrapped in trash bags and duct tape, prosecutors have said.

During a nearly two-month-long trial, prosecutors said Chad Daybell, a self-published author who wrote doomsday-laced fiction, promoted unusual spiritual beliefs including apocalyptic prophecies and tales of possession by evil spirits in order to justify the killings.

“This has been a tough case because of its complexity, both in telling the story of an investigation that spanned years and trying to figure out the best way to present it in a way that would make sense to others,” Fremont County Prosecutor Lindsey Blake said outside the Boise courthouse after the sentencing.

Relatives of the victims welcomed the jury's decision.

“This is the best justice we can possibly get. And again, it doesn’t change the outcome, but it is good news, and it brings closure for everybody that's been hurt,” Colby Ryan, Vallow Daybell’s oldest child, told reporters.

Larry Woodcock, JJ's grandfather, thanked the judge, law enforcement and the people who have followed the case and shared their support over the years.

“You are family,” he said. “I look at the faces, and I’m going to tell you all: I’m going to miss you."

“We saw justice,” he added. “Equal, honest and righteous.”

Daybell's defense attorney, John Prior, argued during the trial that there wasn't enough evidence to tie Daybell to the killings, and suggested Vallow Daybell's older brother, Alex Cox, was the culprit. Cox died in late 2019 and was never charged, and Vallow Daybell was convicted last year and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

During the sentencing hearing, Prior asked the jurors to judge Daybell on his life before he met Vallow Daybell, describing her as a bomb that blew him off the trajectory of an otherwise wholesome life. But Daybell also declined to offer any mitigating evidence during the sentencing hearing. Mitigating evidence is often used to encourage jurors to have sympathy for a defendant in an effort to show that a life sentence would be more appropriate than capital punishment.

Family members of the victims gave emotional statements to the jurors. JJ Vallow’s grandmother, Kay Woodcock, tearfully described how the 7-year-old would show empathy and compassion to others through soft touches and by frequently asking if those around him were OK. She also said Tylee was a doting big sister, and that it warmed her heart to see them together.

“I can’t express just how much I wish for more time to create memories,” Woodcock said, beginning to weep.

Ryan, Vallow Daybell's oldest child, described what it was like to lose his entire family. His father died years earlier.

“My three kids will never know the kindness of Tylee’s heart or JJ’s silly and goofy personality ... The only way I could describe the impact of their lives being lost is like a nuclear bomb dropping,” he said. “It’s not an overstatement to say that I lost everything.”

To impose the death penalty, the jurors had to unanimously find that Daybell met at least one of the “aggravating circumstances” that state law says qualifies someone for capital punishment. They also had to agree that those aggravating factors weren’t outweighed by any mitigating factors that might have lessened his culpability or justified a lesser sentence.

The jury decided there were aggravating factors including an utter disregard for human life and the murders being especially heinous and cruel.

Idaho law allows for execution by lethal injection or firing squad, though firing squad executions have never been used in the state.