‘Doomsday-cult’ mom Lori Vallow Daybell guilty of murdering her 2 children, conspiring to kill her husband’s 1st wife


In or around September 2019, Lori Vallow Daybell murdered her children, a jury in Ada County, Idaho, determined on Friday.

On a third charge of conspiracy to commit murder, for the death of her husband’s first wife Tammy Daybell who died in October 2019, Vallow was also found guilty.

Vallow was also found guilty of grand theft.

The jury received the case late Thursday afternoon and was left to determine their own schedule and timeline for how late they would deliberate, a spokesperson for the prosecution told Law&Crime. Jurors went home at about 6:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time and returned on Friday morning, resuming deliberations at 9 a.m. local time.

After six hours and 50 mins of deliberations, 12 jurors decided Vallow’s fate. The timestamp on their decision was 11:45 a.m. Mountain Standard Time.

Vallow and her fifth and current husband, Chad Daybell, 54, stand accused of murder over the 2019 deaths of Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ashlyn Ryan, 17. The children disappeared on different dates in September of that year. Vallow was initially arrested in Hawaii in February 2020 on charges of child desertion. Daybell was arrested in June 2020 after the children’s bodies were found buried at his property. The two defendants were indicted for the murder of Vallow’s children and Daybell’s first wife, Tammy Daybell, 49, in May 2021 on multiple counts of murder in the first degree, conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree, and grand theft by deception.

Initially prosecuted as husband-and-wife co-defendants, their cases were severed, and Daybell will be tried separately at a later date.

An abbreviated affair

The trial itself was relatively quick.

While overseen by Seventh District Judge Steven Boyce, who, well before the trial began, had explained to would-be jurors that the complicated case was expected to last as long as eight weeks, the proceedings topped out at just under three weeks total.

The state called 60 witnesses to make their case against the since-convicted murderess. The defense team, consisting of attorneys John Thomas and Jim Archibald, called exactly zero people to the stand.

During the state’s presentation, cross-examination went by apace – in something of a surprise to many court watchers – as the defense largely focused on efforts to dispute the credentials or background of the witnesses instead of what they actually testified to under oath.

Opening arguments began in the case on Monday, April 10; the last day of testimony was Tuesday, May 9. Several days of testimony were even cut short, for various reasons – including one personal tragedy. But testimony was cut short at least once, the court noted, because things were moving much quicker than anticipated and some of the prior scheduling of witnesses needed to be maintained.

Zombies and faith

Vallow and Daybell met at a doomsday conference in 2018. There, they came to believe that they had been married in a past life. Other non-doctrinaire beliefs not typical of their Mormon upbringing included the idea that people emit energies that can be categorized as light and dark. Those on the darker end of the spectrum, the couple believe, are possessed by evil spirits, and essentially become zombies.

By the fall of 2019, prosecutors argued, the couple came to think of J.J. Vallow, Tylee Ryan, and Tammy Daybell as zombified.

During the trial, the Ada County coroner testified that J.J. Vallow died from asphyxiation by a plastic bag and that Tylee Ryan died of homicide by unknown means. This was the first time that the children’s causes of death had ever been released publicly.

The body of the young special needs boy was found wrapped in duct tape with the plastic bag that presumably killed him still over his head. The teenage girl’s body was dismembered and burned beyond recognition – witnesses testified to finding clumps of human gore commingled with green plastic. Ryan’s tissue and bones had become part of a bucket used to carry the pieces of her body to the dirt.

Vallow and her husband are also accused of collecting her son’s and daughter’s Social Security benefits between Oct 2019 and January 2020 – well after they both were slaughtered and shallowly buried under crass circumstances, adjacent to and part of the pet cemetery, under Daybell’s rural property in Salem, Idaho.

“You are not advocates,” Judge Boyce told the jurors before closing arguments began. “You are judges.”

Vallow faces a sentence of life in prison. The defendant initially faced the death penalty. In a pretrial victory for the defense, however, Boyce took the prospect of capital punishment off the table.

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