By LAUREN SILVER and COURT TV STAFF
**Warning: This article contains content that may be considered graphic. **
ADA COUNTY, Idaho (Court TV) – Forensics were center stage at the start of court on Thursday in the trial of Lori Vallow Daybell, who is accused of killing her two youngest children and conspiring to kill her fifth husband’s first wife, Tammy Daybell.
The bodies of Lori’s children, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan, were found buried on her husband, Chad Daybell’s, property in June 2020.
Dr. Angie Christensen, a forensic anthropologist who examined Tylee’s remains, began testifying on Wednesday and started the day in court on Thursday talking about the condition of Tylee’s body.
Christensen described Tylee’s bones as separated from one another and fragmentary, which she described as “inconsistent” from cases of dismemberment. She said that rather than seeing sharp trauma to Tylee’s vertebrae, she saw many were thermally altered or fragmented. She did note a sharp trauma to Tylee’s hip bone.
Under cross-examination, Christensen said that she had limited experience with cases involving dismemberment and had seen fewer than 10 in her career.
Douglas Halepaska, a forensic examiner with the FBI, was the next witness to take the stand. Halepaska examined Tylee’s skeletal remains and testified to a series of photos showing her bones. Halepaska testified that part of Tylee’s body was subjected to a “stabbing action,” which involved force generated from the tip of a tool onto a surface. Other areas of Tylee’s body were allegedly subjected to a “chopping-type” action, which Halepaska described as energy delivered from a blade along a long axis.
Halepaska was unable to identify a specific tool used but speculated that some of the damage to Tylee’s body could have been made with a hatchet, while in other areas a tool with a serrated blade was likely used. For the region where Halepaska identified a stabbing action, he hypothesized that a knife was used, but said he could not rule out other tools, like a cleaver.
Under cross-examination, Halepaska admitted that he did not examine any tools that were recovered from the Daybell property, and said that he wasn’t aware that any tools had been found.
David Sincerbeaux, an analyst at the Idaho state lab, was the next witness to take the stand. Sincerbeaux testified that he analyzed a pint-size paint can that was recovered from the property that contained decomposing flesh and other debris, including gasoline.
Rylene Nowlin, a forensic lab manager for the Idaho State Police, testified to her analysis of the DNA recovered from Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow. Nowlin said that she examined the molars and ribs from Tylee and JJ to identify them.
JJ’s biological father is Dennis Trahan, who is Kay Woodcock’s son. Kay Woodcock testified the first week of Lori’s trial that her son and his girlfriend gave JJ up when they were unable to care for him.
Trahan’s DNA was compared to JJ’s, while Lori Vallow Daybell’s DNA was compared to that of Tylee Ryan. The results yielded the children’s identifications.
Katie Dace, who tested items seized from the Daybell property for DNA, testified to her findings. She said that she was able to match DNA on a shovel found at the property with that of Tylee Ryan. Dace obtained a partial DNA profile from a pickaxe that was seized from the property. Dace testified that Tylee Ryan was a potential contributor to DNA found on the pickaxe, and her DNA matched blood found on the handle of the pickaxe.
Tara Martinez, a forensic scientist who tested for latent prints from the duct tape found on JJ’s body, was the next witness called to the stand. Martinez testified that she collected usable prints from the duct tape on the black bag over JJ as well as from the tape on his ankles and feet. None of the fingerprints were a definitive match for known individuals (i.e. they did not match Lori, Chad, Alex or JJ).
Martinez testified she was able to identify one fingerprint from the black plastic bag and grey duct tape that was a match to Alex Cox.
Detective Chuck Kunsaitis, who obtained the satellite imagery of Chad Daybell’s property, was recalled to the stand. He testified that imagery from September 9, 2019, less than an hour after Alex Cox left the property, revealed a fence and discolored shape near the pet cemetery.
During cross-examination, Kunsaitis testified that there was no indication of smoke or fire. On re-direct, he clarified that the firepit had been obscured by clouds on that date.
Samantha Gwilliam, Tammy Daybell’s sister, was the next witness called to the stand. She testified that Chad had worked digging and preparing graves for the parks department in Springville before eventually becoming the sexton.
On the day Tammy died, Samantha testified that Chad called her to say that Tammy had been really sick, coughing all night and had gotten up with a coughing fit that morning. Samantha said she had seen her sister two weeks earlier, and described her as very healthy and not sick at all.
Samantha also testified that her sister was never suspicious that Chad was having an affair. Samantha did say she noticed a change in her sister’s marriage in June 2019, when the couple stayed with them. Samantha described the couple as awkward and said that Chad wasn’t talking with her husband like he normally would have. Samantha also testified that in July, Tammy arrived to bring her a birthday gift, but that Chad stayed in the car the entire time.