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(Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

OAN’s James Meyers
8:40 AM – Friday, May 31, 2024

An Idaho jury has convicted Chad Daybell of murder in the deaths of his wife and his girlfriend’s two youngest children. 


The verdict marks the end of a years-long investigation that included wild claims of zombie children, apocalyptic prophecies and illicit affairs. 

A decision is now up to the jury on whether Daybell should be sentenced to death for the crimes. 

Prosecutors charged Daybell and his latest wife, Lori Vallow Daybell, with multiple counts of murder, conspiracy and grand theft in connection with the deaths of Vallow Daybell’s two youngest children, 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan, in September 2019.

Additionally, prosecutors also charged the couple in connection with the October 2019 death of Chad Daybell’s wife, Tammy Daybell. 

Prosecutors had also claimed that they would seek the death penalty if Chad Daybell was convicted. 

Meanwhile, Vallow Daybell was convicted last year and sentenced to life in prison without parole. 

The trial now enters the penalty phase, with prosecutors attempting to show that the crimes merit a death sentence because the acts were heinous or cruel that they meet one of the other “aggravating factors” detailed in state law. As for Daybell’s defense, they will try to provide the jury with lighter circumstances that would show the jury a lighter sentence is more appropriate. 

The case started in September 2019, when extended family members reported the two children missing and law enforcement officials launched a search that was across several states. 

Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell were having an affair when both of their spouses died unexpectedly, investigators said. Vallow Daybell’s husband was shot to death by her brother Alex Cox in Arizona, in July 2019, her brother claimed it was self defense and was not charged. 

Vallow Daybell, her kids JJ and Tylee, and Cox subsequently moved to eastern Idaho to be closer to Daybell, who was at the time a self-published writer of doomsday-focused fiction loosely based on Mormon teachings. 

However, in October 2019, Tammy Daybell died. Chad Daybell told police she was battling an illness and died in her sleep, but an autopsy later determined that she died of asphyxiation. 

Chad Daybell and Vallow Daybell married just two weeks after Tammy Daybell died, which came as a shock to family members. 

Nearly a year after the children went missing, their remains were found buried on Chad Daybell’s property in eastern Idaho. Investigators involved in the case later determined both children 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. 

Prosecutors called dozens of witnesses to increase their claims that Chad Daybell and Vallow Daybell conspired to kill the two children and Tammy Daybell to eliminate any obstacles of being together. They also states that they did it to obtain money from survivor benefits and life insurance. 

Prosecutors claimed throughout the case that the couple justified the murders by creating an apocalyptic belief system in their heads, where people could be possessed by evil spirits and look like demons. They also stated that the murderers believed the only way to save a person’s soul was for the “possessed” body to die. 

Fremont County prosecutor Lindsay Blake said Chad Daybell proclaimed himself to be a leader of what he called “The Church of The Firstborn” and told Vallow Daybell and others that he could determine if someone had become a “zombie.” He also claimed that he could determine if a person was close to death by reading what he called their “death percentage,” Blake said. 

Blake then stated that Daybell followed a pattern for each of the victims that were killed. 

“They would be labeled as ‘dark’ by Chad Daybell. Their ‘death percentage’ would drop. Then they would have to die,” she said in her closing argument.

However, Daybell’s defense attorney, John Prior, rejected the prosecution’s claims of Daybell’s beliefs. He stated that Daybell was a traditional member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a deeply religious man who wanted to talk about his religious beliefs whenever he had a chance. 

Prior then tried to pin the murders on the children’s late uncle, Cox. He cited that Cox had previously killed JJ Vallow’s father in Arizona and that the two children were the only witnesses to that shooting. Furthermore, he said Cox tried to frame Daybell by burying the murdered children in Daybell’s yard in Idaho. 

Witnesses for both sides agreed that Chad Daybell and Vallow Daybell had started their affair before Tammy Daybell died. 

Chad Daybell’s son, Garth Daybell, told jurors he was home the night his mother died and that he heard no disturbance. He also claimed that authorities were trying to pressure him to change his story and said they threatened him with charges at one point in the case.

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