Lori Vallow Daybell will be sentenced at Idaho’s Madison County Courthouse in St. Anthony Monday, which could mark a final chapter in the high-profile murder case surrounding the mother convicted of killing her children.
In May, Vallow Daybell was found guilty on six counts that included murder, conspiracy and grand theft related to the deaths of 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old JJ Vallow, and Tammy Daybell, the spouse of Chad Daybell.
The verdict, which was unanimous, was handed down after a weekslong trial that spanned much of April and May. It included testimony from dozens of witnesses and a slew of evidence that painted a grim, detailed picture of Vallow Daybell and her bizarre world that prosecutors say was built on fringe, end-of-days beliefs and the pursuit of money, power and sex.
“It does not matter what they believed. It matters what they did. They can believe whatever they want. But when they use that to justify homicide, that changes. They used religion to manipulate others,” Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood told jurors during closing arguments.
One big question remains — what sentence will Judge Steven Boyce give Vallow Daybell?
“There is no chance that she will get anything other than life sentences. Now, the board of pardons can certainly review that after 20, 30, 40 years,” said Greg Skordas, a defense attorney, former prosecutor and KSL legal analyst.
“I think that the judge has to send a message by his sentencing, not only to the public, but to her and her husband about the way they handled this, about the way they have failed to accept any responsibility. And you would hope that she would accept some responsibility at the sentencing although that seems unlikely,” Skordas said.
Another question is whether or not Vallow Daybell will address the court. She remained silent for much of the trial, declining to speak during closing arguments and showing little emotion throughout weeks of testimony.
“You would hope that Lori, who hasn’t spoken to the judge or the public for that matter, will take an opportunity to say something. It’s unlikely that she will, but if I were coaching her or talking to her, I would want her to apologize,” said Skordas. “I would want her to tell the judge that she misses her babies, that she’s sorry she ever met Chad, that she wishes she could turn back the clock and accept some responsibility for this, because so far she hasn’t done any of that, which gives the judge no choice but to give her the maximum sentence.”
Boyce will have a detailed report that he will use to consider what sentence to give, which likely includes trial details and Vallow Daybell’s prior criminal history, her education, and letters submitted on her behalf or on behalf of the victims.
Family members of the victims will likely speak directly to her as well. The sentencing will be streamed live and posted on Deseret.com.
After the sentencing, Vallow Daybell’s attorney’s can appeal the conviction — Skordas says they will likely do so after 30 days.
“Really the only question for the sentencing is whether the judge runs these sentences consecutively (one after the other) or concurrently (at the same time). My guess is the judge has to send a message and run at least several of them — especially the homicide-related charge — one after the other, so she will get numerous life sentences,” Skordas said.
In September 2019, Vallow Daybell’s two children were murdered and buried in a shallow grave behind the Rexburg home of Chad Daybell, the man she was believed to be having an affair with and the apparent source of her fringe beliefs.
Then in October 2019, Daybell’s wife, Tammy, was killed by what investigators said was asphyxiation in her sleep, though at the time her death was ruled natural. Just two weeks later, Lori Vallow married Chad Daybell on a beach in Hawaii.
The honeymoon didn’t last long. That December, Tammy Daybell’s body was exhumed, and Tylee and JJ were declared missing. A court ordered Vallow Daybell to produce her children by Jan. 30, 2020. When she failed to comply, she was arrested in Hawaii about four weeks later.
On June 9, 2020, police executed a search warrant and found the bodies of Tylee and JJ buried in Daybell’s backyard. Tylee’s remains were so mutilated that authorities were unable to determine a cause of death. And JJ, bound by duct tape and a plastic bag, was killed by asphyxiation.
Chad Daybell was arrested that day.
Daybell is charged with three counts of conspiracy and three counts of first degree murder in the deaths of his wife, Tammy Daybell, and Lori Vallow Daybell’s two children — 7-year-old JJ Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan. He is also charged with two counts of insurance fraud.
Daybell has pleaded not guilty, and prosecutors are pursuing the death penalty.
Vallow Daybell is also charged in Arizona with conspiracy to commit first degree murder in the attempted shooting of her niece’s former husband, Brandon Boudreaux, and conspiracy to commit murder in connection to the death of her fourth husband, Charles Vallow.