(NewsNation) — The woman accused in a triple murder connected to doomsday religious beliefs is set to stand trial on Monday in Idaho.
Authorities believe Lori Vallow conspired with her now-husband Chad Daybell conspired to kill her kids and his former wife based on their apocalyptic beliefs. The circumstances surrounding Vallow and Daybell have been described as “one of the largest and strangest criminal cases in Idaho’s history.”
NewsNation is following the latest on this case and we will bring you the most up-to-date information on “Elizabeth Vargas Reports” at 6 p.m. Eastern. Not sure how to find us? Use our ChannelFinder app to locate NewsNation on your TV or stream the show live here.
The two were married shortly after the deaths of their former spouses and the exhaustive search for Vallow’s children captivated the nation.
Who is involved?
Vallow is accused of killing her two youngest children, Tylee and JJ, and conspiring to kill her now-husband’s former wife, Tammy Daybell.
Police revealed that Vallow wrote books about the end of the world and was part of a doomsday preparation group with her now-husband Chad Daybell. Prosecutors say they began supporting an apocalyptic system of religious belief at least tracing back to 2018.
In the summer of 2019, Vallow’s brother shot and killed Vallow’s estranged husband at the time, Charles Vallow, in suburban Phoenix. Vallow’s brother was not charged and insisted it was self-defense. At the time of the shooting, Charles Vallow was seeking a divorce from Lori, saying he thought she believed she had become a god-like figure responsible for ushering in a biblical end of times.
Soon after the death of Charles Vallow, Lori and her children moved to Idaho, where Chad Daybell lived.
Daybell is now married to Vallow. He used to run a small publishing company and wrote fictional books about apocalyptic scenarios loosely based on the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He also hosted a podcast about preparing for the apocalypse. Those close to Daybell said he claimed he received visions from “beyond the veil.”
Investigators became suspicious of Daybell after he remarried two weeks after his wife, Tammy Daybell, died.
Tammy Daybell was a 49-year-old school librarian, who was married to Chad Daybell and helped him run his publishing company. She died in October 2019. Her obituary said she died in her sleep of natural causes. Investigators later announced they believed her death was suspicious.
Tylee and JJ Vallow
Tylee, who was last spotted days before her 17th birthday, and JJ, 7, were missing for several months starting in 2019 until their bodies were found in 2020 buried in shallow graves in Chad Daybell’s backyard in rural Idaho.
Vallow adopted JJ in 2014, and Tylee reportedly welcomed the role of being his big sister.
Kay Woodcock, JJ’s grandmother, said he had the “most beautiful smile” and the “biggest heart.” JJ’s older brother said he was “such a character.”
Tylee’s aunt, Anne Cushing, told Dateline that “Tylee doesn’t hold back” and said she had a “strong sense of right and wrong.”
Vallow currently has two-court appointed attorneys. According to East Idaho News, Jim Archibald, who has been a public defender for more than 30 years, and John Thomas, who has been a defense attorney since 2005, are representing Vallow.
East Idaho News reports that there are three main prosecutors assigned to the case: Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood, Fremont County Prosecuting Attorney Lindsey Blake and Rachel Smith, a prosecutor from Missouri with experience in homicide cases.
Judge in the case
Seventh Judicial District Judge Steven Boyce is hearing the case against Vallow. Idaho Gov. Brad Little appointed Boyce to the position in 2019 after Honorable Gregory Moeller was appointed to the Idaho Supreme Court. Boyce has practiced law in southeast Idaho for more than two decades. His district covers Bingham, Bonneville, Butte, Clark, Custer, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison and Teton counties.
What are the charges?
Vallow pleaded not guilty to murder, conspiracy and grand theft charges. She is being housed at the Ada County Jail, just outside Boise, where she will remain during her trial.
When did the alleged crimes happen?
Vallow is accused of killing her two children, who went missing in 2019, and conspiring to kill her husband’s previous wife.
Relatives initially raised concerns about the whereabouts of the children, which sparked an extensive search. Police say Vallow and Daybell lied to investigators about the children’s whereabouts before leaving Idaho. The couple was found months later in Hawaii without the children.
Tylee and JJ were missing for several months starting in 2019 until their bodies were found in 2020 buried in shallow graves in Chad Daybell’s backyard in rural Idaho.
Vallow and her husband are also charged in connection with the October 2019 death of Chad Daybell’s late wife,
The indictment does not unveil how the three victims died, but it does say that both Vallow and Daybell endorsed specific religious beliefs to justify or encourage the killings.
Could she get the death penalty?
Boyce ruled to dismiss the death penalty as a potential sentencing option ahead of Vallow’s trial. According to East Idaho News, the judge made the decision “to ensure the rights of the defendant to a fair trial are protected.”
Other media reports suggested a late disclosure of evidence by prosecutors may have also contributed to the ruling.
In an interview with NewsNation host Ashleigh Banfield, Larry Woodcock, the grandfather of JJ Vallow, said removing the death penalty for Lori Vallow is a “slap in the face.”
“I think he (Boyce) has made bad calls. … This ruling that he put out today is an insult to JJ. … It’s a slap in the face to our family. … The fact that Boyce is not allowing cameras is wrong,” Woodcock told Banfield.
At the time of the ruling, prosecutors said they were “disappointed” but “will continue to vigorously pursue justice for Tammy, Tylee and JJ.”
The death penalty could still stand for Chad Daybell since his case is severed from his wife’s trial.
Why are Vallow and Daybell not facing trial together?
While the couple has maintained their innocence in the alleged murders, their trials have been severed. Vallow did not waive her right to a swift trial. Daybell waived his right to a speedy trial to give his attorneys more time to review evidence.
Daybell is awaiting trial inside the Fremont County Jail. A trial date has not been set for him yet.
Is Vallow competent to stand trial?
Two years ago, Vallow was found unfit to stand trial on charges of concealing evidence related to the deaths of her two kids.
According to reports, Vallow’s attorneys insisted she is mentally ill but claimed they will only raise the competency issue for her trial’s penalty phase.
High-profile defense attorney Mark Geragos told NewsNation host Chris Cuomo that Vallow’s lawyers seem to be “telegraphing” a defense of mental illness.
“I have had numerous cases over the years where people are competent at one particular point in time, and then as soon as you get them into the trial, leading up to the trial, they go incompetent again for a variety of reasons,” Geragos told Cuomo in a previous interview. “So, it’s a conundrum. We’ve also talked about the problem with the criminal justice system. It’s not equipped to deal with people who have mental health challenges, especially to the degree that it appears that she has.”
Is Vallow accused of crimes in other states?
Vallow faces a conspiracy to commit murder charge in Arizona linked to the death of her former husband Charles Vallow, East Idaho News reports. The outlet says a representative with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said Vallow’s case in Idaho is expected to happen before she faces the Arizona charge.
Has the jury been selected?
A private investigator hired by extended family tells NewsNation the jury selection process has already started for Vallow’s murder trial.
Can I watch the trial?
Media cameras were banned from the trial, so no livestreaming or broadcasting will be allowed. NewsNation will be following the trial and providing updates on our website.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.