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Jurors could soon decide the fate of an Idaho man charged with triple murder

BOISE, Idaho – Prosecutors will make closing arguments to jurors Wednesday in the case of an Idaho man accused of killing his wife and his new girlfriend's two youngest children.

The trial against Chad Daybell has already lasted about two months and includes testimony from dozens of witnesses, some of which are strange and cruel.

Prosecutors allege that Daybell, 55, promoted unusual and apocalyptic spiritual beliefs to justify the killings, all to satisfy his desire for money, sex and power. They have said they will seek the death penalty if Daybell is convicted.

Daybell's defense attorney, John Prior, contends there is simply not enough evidence to conclusively link Daybell to the deaths or even prove that his late wife, Tammy Daybell, was killed and did not die of natural causes. Several witnesses, including Chad and Tammy Daybell's adult children, testified for the defense.

Daybell is charged with three counts of first-degree murder, insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit murder and grand larceny in connection with the deaths of Tammy Daybell, 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan.

Last year, the children's mother, Lori Vallow Daybell, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murders.

Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell were married just two weeks after Tammy Daybell's death in October 2019, raising suspicions among local law enforcement officials. Tammy Daybell's body was later exhumed, and authorities say an autopsy found she died of asphyxiation. Chad Daybell had told officials Tammy Daybell had been ill and died in her sleep.

However, witnesses on both sides agree on some points: Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell had an affair that began long before Tammy Daybell's death, and the two young children were missing for months before their remains were found buried in Chad Daybell's yard.

The case began in the fall of 2019, when Lori Vallow Daybell's then-estranged husband, Charles Vallow, was shot and killed in his home in suburban Phoenix, Arizona. Vallow Daybell's brother, Alex Cox, shot but told police it was self-defense. Cox was never charged.

Lori Vallow Daybell, her children JJ and Tylee, and her brother Cox all moved to eastern Idaho and settled in a town not far from the rural area where Chad Daybell lived. Just a few months later, the extended family reported the two children missing and police began a search that spanned several states.

The children's remains were found buried on Chad Daybell's property nearly a year later. Investigators later determined that both children had died in September 2019. Prosecutors say Cox conspired with Chad Daybell and Vallow Daybell in all three deaths, but Cox died of natural causes during the investigation and was never charged.

During the trial, prosecutors presented the testimony of Lori Vallow Daybell's niece, who said the couple believed people could be possessed by evil spirits, making the person a “zombie.” They said zombies would eventually be overcome by the dark spirit and die, Melani Pawlowski told jurors. Her testimony was similar to testimony given last year by another friend of the couple, Melanie Gibb. Gibb testified during Lori Vallow Daybell's trial that she heard Vallow Daybell call the two children “zombies” before they disappeared.

Jurors heard grim testimony from police officers who described how they found the children's bodies in Daybell's yard. They were also shown dozens of cell phone records and messages between Daybell and Vallow Daybell, including some that showed her calling him the day Charles Vallow died. Daybell allegedly told Vallow Daybell in one message that JJ was “barely clinging to his body” and that “a plan is being hatched for the children.”

Among the defense witnesses was forensic pathologist Dr. Kathy Raven, who reviewed Tammy Daybell's autopsy reports and stated that in her opinion the cause of death should have been classified as “undetermined.”

Chad Daybell's son, Garth Daybell, testified that his mother was exhausted and sickly before her death. He told jurors that he was home the night his mother died and that he heard no noises coming from his bedroom, which was next to his parents' room. He said he later felt that police and prosecutors tried to pressure him to change his testimony and even threatened him with perjury charges.

Anna Harden

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