By LAUREN SILVER and COURT TV STAFF
BOISE, Idaho (Court TV) – The prosecution echoed its theme from opening arguments, saying that money, power and sex were the theme and motivation behind the murders of Tammy Daybell, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan in the trial against Lori Vallow Daybell.
Lori is accused of murdering JJ and Tylee and conspiring in the death of Tammy Daybell. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Over the course of a five-week trial, prosecutors called 59 witnesses to the stand to testify about the brutal murders, and a plan to commit them that they said was put into motion in October 2018, when Lori and Chad Daybell met at a conference.
LISTEN: ID v. Lori Vallow Daybell Daily Trial Audio
Prosecutors outlined the case, saying that Lori and Chad set in motion a series of events leading to three horrific murders, all driven by Lori’s desire for money, power and sex.
Focusing first on 16-year-old Tylee Ryan, who was believed to be murdered between September 8-9, prosecutors described her as a teenager with her whole life ahead of her. Prosecutors said Lori, as Tylee’s mother, was responsible for her health and safety, but instead of protecting her, Lori, Chad and Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, conspired to kill her. Tylee’s body was found burned beyond recognition, with her body dismembered in what prosecutors described as such a grotesque and extreme manner that the medical examiner was unable to determine exactly what led to her death, only that it was a homicide. What was left of her remains was dumped into a green bucket in a pet cemetery.
Prosecutors said that Tylee was “out of the way,” but Lori kept collecting Tylee’s Social Security checks. They argued Lori never reported Tylee missing, and intended to keep her body hidden so that she could keep collecting the money.
Prosecutors turned their focus to JJ Vallow‘s murder next, describing the 7-year-old as being “silenced forever” by a strip of duct tape placed across his mouth, along with a white plastic bag placed over his head and duct taped around from his forehead to his neck. Evidence showed that JJ may have struggled, and prosecutors said it was impossible to know how long he fought.
Prosecutors said that JJ’s body was placed in black plastic and buried “like a piece of trash” in Chad’s backyard in a shallow and precise grave. Similar to Tylee, JJ was also receiving Social Security benefits amd prosecutors said that Lori never reported him missing. Describing the grave, prosecutors said it was “too precise, too well-prepared” to be the result of anything but premeditated murder.
Prosecutors reminded the jury about testimony that Lori asked her friends, including Melanie Gibb, to lie about the children’s location to police.
The prosecution then turned its attention to Tammy Daybell, who was married to Chad when she died. Prosecutors said that Tammy, a loving mother and school librarian, was murdered when she was asphyxiated in her own home.
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Prosecutors said the evidence shown to the jury proved that Lori worked with Chad and Alex to plan Tammy’s death, which occurred a little more than a week after she was attacked by a masked gunman. When their first plan failed, prosecutors said the group was forced to come up with a second plan. Lori was out of the state when Tammy died, but prosecutors said her travel was no coincidence.
Two and a half weeks after Tammy died, Lori and Chad were married in Hawaii, and the jurors heard a phone call from Summer Shiflet, Lori’s sister, accusing her of dancing on a beach while her children were dead. Prosecutors said that was Lori’s plan: to be free from the obstacles of Tylee, JJ and Tammy.
In their closing argument, the prosecution gave jurors this timeline:
- September 8-9, Tylee is killed.
- September 22-23, JJ is killed.
- October 19, Tammy is killed.
Prosecutors said the timing and deaths were not coincidences – and that Lori is the common thread to all the murders and the one person who ties them all together.
Referencing the jury instructions the panel was given, prosecutors emphasized that Tammy’s death was the result of a crime of agreement: did Lori agree to have Tylee killed and still have money? Did she intend for this to happen? Did someone act overtly in furtherance of that agreement?
Addressing the religious beliefs that appear to be at the center of the Doomsday Cult that Lori and Chad were involved in, prosecutors emphasized that nobody has been charged for their religious beliefs, but rather they have been charged for using those beliefs for the purpose of murder. Prosecutors painted a picture of Lori as the conduit of information to Alex, and Alex doing exactly what Lori tells him to.
“We talked about religion but this is not a case about religion. It’s about money, power and sex.”
Prosecutors reminded the jury that while Tammy was still alive, Lori was searching for wedding rings, and the day Tammy was buried Lori was looking up wedding dresses in Kauai.
No charges in the case are related to the death of Charles Vallow, but prosecutors discussed his death in their closing arguments, reminding the jury that Lori believed that she was entitled to his insurance money and stole the Social Security benefits from him that were destined for JJ. Charles also purchased the Jeep for Tylee that was later seen parked outside the home of Brandon Boudreaux when he said he was shot at.
Days after collecting JJ’s first Social Security benefits after Charles’ death on September 18, 2019, prosecutors say JJ was murdered and buried in Chad’s backyard.
Prosecutors summed up their case by saying that Lori used sexual manipulation on Chad and groomed Alex Cox to achieve her goals of money, power and sex.
After a brief recess, Lori’s defense team offered its closing arguments. Lori’s attorney reminded the jury that the state has the burden of proof and must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Lori’s attorney, Jim Archibald, offered a broader overview of her life, describing a woman who was married right after high school and went to beauty school. Archibald described her as a single mother before marrying and divorcing a second time and then meeting Joe Ryan in Texas. With Joe, Lori had Tylee, who had medical issues. Lori said that she needed to protect her children from her third husband.
Lori then married Charles Vallow, who had two children just as she did. Together, they adopted JJ, who had special needs.
Archibald said that his client’s story changed “dramatically” in 2018, when she read some of Chad’s books about the end of the world. Chad told her that they had been married in previous lives, and had other names such as “James and Elena,” and told her that they had been selected to lead the 144,000. He said that somehow in the space between Lori’s introduction to Chad in 2018 and November 2019, four people died.
Addressing the alleged motive of money, Archibald argued that Charles Vallow earned $400,000-$500,000 a year, and was worth far more to Lori alive than dead. Archibald also noted that Chad is an author who went bankrupt, so if money is a motive it wouldn’t make sense for Lori to leave Charles for Chad.
Archibald claimed the argument of Lori searching for power fell short because she had zero converts. He said that Chad may have had as many as six converts, naming some of the witnesses who testified in the trial, including Zulema Pastenes and Melanie Gibb, but that Lori had none.
When it came to the motive of sex, Archibald implied that Chad was less attractive than Charles, and that Lori’s attraction to Chad was based on his pickup lines and her telling her she was a goddess, special and amazing, as well as telling her that they had been married in previous lifetimes. Archibald described Chad as “smooth,” reminding the jurors that he convinced a county coroner, assistant coroner, deputy coroner and police, as well as his children, that his wife had died of natural causes.
While Archibald conceded that there were a lot of text messages between Chad and Lori with “James and Elena crap” but there were no texts saying, “Today is the day we killed people.”
Archibald pointed to Lori enrolling JJ in school and her eldest son, Colby Ryan’s, testimony that she had previously been a good mother to emphasize that she had no plan, and would never have killed her children.
Archibald blamed Alex and Chad for Tylee’s death and said that the state had not proven Lori’s involvement or knowledge of what happened. Referencing JJ’s grave, he said that the time that Alex had been out at the site, based on digital evidence, wasn’t enough time to bury a body by himself, and he would have needed help from Chad.
Lori was led by Chad, and was following him and “the storm,” Archibald said. He said she wanted to be a leader but never led anyone.
Archibald reminded the jury that there’s no box on the verdict form for having an affair, and that finding Lori guilty or not guilty will not bring the children back. He encouraged the jury to follow the law and the evidence – ignoring talk of multiple lives, zombies, leading 144,000 – in reaching their verdict. He closed by saying that Lori spent her whole life protecting her children.
After a lunch break, the jury returned and prosecutor Rob Wood delivered the state’s rebuttal.
Wood began by telling the jury that the state had met its burden, beyond a reasonable doubt, reason and common sense that Lori “is a killer.” Wood said that Lori knew how to get herself the things that she wanted, and that after she didn’t get money from Charles she went after Tylee and JJ for theirs.
Wood directly responded to the defense’s assertions that Lori was a good mom, asking the jury whether a good mom would have been dancing on a beach in Hawaii while the rest of the world was searching for their missing kids, and whether a good mom buries their children in the ground and runs off to marry a recent widower.
Prosecutors repeatedly pointed to Lori’s lies to police and her friends about the children, insisting that innocent people don’t lie – only the guilty do.
Wood spoke for only 15 minutes, emphasizing the overwhelming circumstantial and digital evidence as he encouraged the jury to convict Lori Vallow Daybell of murder.
Jurors deliberated for about four hours Thursday before breaking for the evening. Deliberations resume Friday morning.