Lori Vallow Daybell found guilty in murder of her 2 children

Lori Vallow Daybell was found guilty on all counts.

May 12, 2023, 3:59 PM

A jury has found Lori Vallow Daybell guilty of killing two of her children in what prosecutors argued was a doomsday plot.

She was also found guilty of conspiring to kill her children and her husband's first wife, Tamara Daybell.

She faces up to life in prison without parole.

Lori Vallow Daybell and her husband, Chad Daybell, were both charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the 2019 deaths of her children, Joshua "J.J." Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 16, whose remains were found on an Idaho property belonging to Chad Daybell following a monthslong search.

The jury deliberated for approximately four hours on Thursday and two hours on Friday before reaching its verdict, which was read before a packed Boise courtroom and also livestreamed by the court.

PHOTO: Lori Vallow Daybell stands and listens as the jury's verdict is read at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise, Idaho on Friday May 12, 2023. The Idaho jury convicted Daybell of murder in the deaths of her two youngest children.
Lori Vallow Daybell stands and listens as the jury's verdict is read at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise, Idaho on Friday May 12, 2023. The Idaho jury convicted Daybell of murder in the deaths of her two youngest children.
Kyle Green/AP

Judge Steven Boyce asked those in attendance to refrain from making any "loud outbursts" while the verdict was read.

Prosecutors said they were "very pleased" with the jury's verdict but declined to comment further given the pending case against Chad Daybell.

"We want to assure each of you that we remain committed to pursuing justice for Tylee Ryan, J.J. Vallow and Tammy Daybell," Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood and Fremont County Prosecuting Attorney Lindsey Blake said in a joint statement. "We also want to express sincere appreciation to the many members of law enforcement and the community who tirelessly worked together to hold Lori Vallow Daybell accountable."

The defense declined to comment on the verdict.

PHOTO: A picture of Tylee Ryan and J.J. Vallow is seen on a fence opposite the property where their bodies were found in 2020, on April 4, 2023 in Rexburg, Idaho.
A picture of Tylee Ryan and J.J. Vallow is seen on a fence opposite the property where their bodies were found in 2020, on April 4, 2023 in Rexburg, Idaho.
Natalie Behring/Getty Images

The verdict followed a six-week trial during which prosecutors argued that the couple thought the children were zombies and murdered them.

J.J.'s grandfather, Larry Woodcock, who along with his wife had reported the children missing, thanked the jurors for their "honest, fair and righteous verdict."

"What they went through, what they saw is mind-boggling," Woodcock, who has been in the courtroom throughout the trial, told reporters outside the courthouse following the verdict. "I hope that nobody ever has to go through this. I hope nobody ever has to see and hear the details of what happened to J.J., to Tylee and to Tammy."

PHOTO: Larry Woodcock hugs an attendee after the verdict was read in the trial Lori Vallow Daybell murder at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise, Idaho, May 12, 2023.
Larry Woodcock hugs an attendee after the verdict was read in the trial Lori Vallow Daybell murder at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise, Idaho, May 12, 2023.
Kyle Green/AP

When asked for his final message to Lori Vallow Daybell, he started singing the Willie Nelson song, "The Party's Over."

"J.J., I love you. Pawpaw wishes you were here in other circumstances. Tylee -- pawpaw loves you," Woodcock said, crying. "Tammy, I am sorry for what happened to you. My heart hurts. My heart hurts for these three."

Wood, the lead prosecutor, told the jury during closing statements on Thursday that Lori Vallow Daybell set a plan for the children's murder in motion in October 2018 "using money, power and sex," and she and her husband "used religion to manipulate others."

"It does not matter what they believed, it matters what they did," Wood said. "They can believe whatever they want, but when it's murder, that's different."

Defense attorney Jim Archibald characterized Lori Vallow Daybell as a devoted mother who loved her children and Jesus, but that all changed near the end of 2018, when she met Chad Baybell.

"Is Lori a leader or a follower of Chad? She so desperately wants to be a leader, but she is following Chad," Archibald said during closing statements.

During the trial, the jury heard text messages that prosecutors said were sent between Lori Vallow Daybell and her husband in the weeks prior to her children's disappearance.

The messages discussed demons inhabiting the children's bodies and that they were "weary" taking care of demons. Lori Vallow Daybell reportedly texted her husband to "please ask the Lord to take them" and, days later, if he thinks there is a "perfectly orchestrated plan to take the children," to which he reportedly responded, "There is a plan being orchestrated for the children."

Archibald dismissed the text message evidence presented by prosecutors during closing statements.

"Of the 15,000 texts in evidence, show me one that says, 'When are you killing Tylee?' It's not there," Archibald told the jury on Thursday. "Of the 15,000 text messages, show me one where Lori says, 'When are you killing J.J., by the way?' There is no such text."

PHOTO: Chad Daybell appears during a court hearing in St. Anthony, Idaho, Aug. 4, 2020.
Chad Daybell appears during a court hearing in St. Anthony, Idaho, Aug. 4, 2020.
John Roark/AP, FILE

The children were last seen alive in September 2019 and were reported missing by their extended family members to police in November 2019. Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell were indicted on murder charges nearly a year after authorities discovered the remains of her children on Chad Daybell's property in June 2020.

In closing statements, Wood pushed back against the defense's characterization of the defendant as a good mother, saying, "You can't have a good mom if she doesn't report her children missing or dead."

"We have the evidence in spades. You must convict her," he told the jury.

Among the revelations during the trial, a DNA expert testified for the state that a strand of hair attached to duct tape found among the remains matched Lori Vallow Daybell's DNA profile.

Jurors also heard emotional jail phone calls from Lori Vallow Daybell's sister and surviving son confronting her about the children's murders. Her sister, Summer Shiflet, testified that she initially trusted Lori Vallow Daybell until she learned the bodies of the children had been found on Chad Daybell's property.

Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell were both charged with conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Chad Daybell's former wife, Tamara Daybell, who died Oct. 19, 2019, less than a month before Lori and Chad married in Hawaii. Chad Daybell was also charged with his former wife's murder.

In opening statements, prosecutors revealed that Tamara Daybell, 49, died of asphyxiation. Her death was initially believed to be natural.

Prosecutors rested their case on Tuesday after calling roughly 60 witnesses. The defense did not call any witnesses.

Chad Daybell, the author of many religious fiction books, is Lori Vallow Daybell's fifth husband. The couple both reportedly adhered to a doomsday ideology, with Lori Vallow Daybell at one point claiming she was "a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ's second coming in July 2020" and didn't want anything to do with her family "because she had a more important mission to carry out," according to court documents obtained by ABC News.

PHOTO: In this March 8, 2020, file photo, Lori Vallow Daybell glances at the camera during her hearing in Rexburg, Idaho.
In this March 8, 2020, file photo, Lori Vallow Daybell glances at the camera during her hearing in Rexburg, Idaho.
The Idaho Post-Register via AP, Pool, FILE

Lori Vallow Daybell was deemed fit to stand trial last year following a 10-month stint at an Idaho mental health facility. Her attorneys had said they did not plan to raise a mental health defense at the guilt-phase portion of the trial.

The judge had granted the defense's motion to dismiss the death penalty in Lori Vallow Daybell's case.

Lori Vallow Daybell was additionally indicted on the charge of grand theft related to Social Security survivor benefits allocated for the care of her children that prosecutors said were appropriated after the children were missing and ultimately found dead. The jury found her guilty on that count as well.

Chad Daybell was also charged with two counts of insurance fraud related to life insurance policies he had on Tamara Daybell for which he was the beneficiary, prosecutors said.

Both had pleaded not guilty to their respective charges. The judge allowed their cases to be tried separately, with Chad Daybell's expected to start at a later date.

ABC News' John Capell contributed to this report.