Nearly a year after the remains of Lori Daybell's two children were allegedly found on her husband Chad Daybell's property, the couple has been indicted for their murder, prosecutors announced Tuesday.
Chad Daybell, the children's stepfather, was also indicted for the murder of his former wife, prosecutors said.
Lori Daybell’s two minor children, 7-year-old Joshua "JJ" Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, were first reported missing by family in November 2019.
On June 9, 2020, police said they found two sets of unidentified human remains at Chad Daybell's property in Fremont County, Idaho. He was subsequently charged with two felony counts of destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence, to which he has pleaded not guilty. A few days after the discovery, authorities confirmed the remains belonged to the children.
In addition to two counts of first-degree murder, Lori and Chad Daybell were indicted by the grand jury Monday on two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft by deception for the deaths of JJ and Tylee.
Before they were reported missing, Chad Daybell's former wife, Tamara Daybell, died on Oct. 19, 2019. Her obituary said she "passed away peacefully in her sleep," and Chad Daybell declined to have an autopsy performed. He received a $430,000 life insurance payout. Her body was exhumed in December 2019 and an autopsy was conducted. A medical examiner has since ruled that death a homicide, prosecutors said.
Lori and Chad Daybell, who were married on the Hawaiian island of Kauai on Nov. 5, 2019, were both indicted on a charge of conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Tamara Daybell, and Chad Daybell, 52, was indicted on one count of first-degree murder in her death.
Additionally, Lori Daybell, 47, was indicted on the charge of grand theft related to Social Security survivor benefits allocated for the care of her children "that were appropriated after the children were missing and ultimately found deceased," Madison County prosecutor Rob Wood, one of two Idaho prosecutors on the case, said at a press briefing Tuesday.
Chad Daybell was also indicted on two counts of insurance fraud related to life insurance policies he had on Tamara Daybell for which he was the beneficiary, Wood said
Prosecutors allege the crimes occurred between on or about Oct. 26, 2018, and Jan. 15, 2020, in Fremont and Madison counties and elsewhere.
The penalty for the most serious charges ranges from life in prison without the possibility of parole to the death penalty. Prosecutors are not disclosing what they're pursuing at this time, though must inform defendants if they are pursuing the death penalty within 60 days of the first plea entry.
The two are scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.
Fremont County Prosecutor Lindsey Blake addressed concerns from the community that the progress on the mysterious case "may have been slow," pointing to COVID-19 safety restrictions holding up presenting evidence to the grand jury.
"I want to assure everyone that despite the delays, we have been working diligently to pursue justice for the victims in this case, to ensure we have the evidence required to prove the facts beyond a reasonable doubt in the court of law," she told reporters.
Lori Daybell was previously charged with two felony counts of conspiracy to destroy, alter or conceal evidence following the discovery of the remains on her husband's property. She pleaded not guilty to those charges in September.
JJ and Tylee were last seen alive in September 2019, before extended family reported them missing two months later. Police charge that their mother "completely refused" to help in the investigation of the missing children before she was arrested in February 2020 in Kauai in connection with their disappearance.
Investigators who searched Chad Daybell's property last year said they found one body tightly wrapped in black plastic and covered in duct tape, and recognized what could be JJ's hair. Charred remains and part of a human skull were allegedly found in another part of the property. The human remains were matched through dental records to Tylee, investigators said.