‘We were shocked’: Neighbors describe Chad’s behavior after Tammy’s death

Posted at 2:09 PM, May 2, 2023 and last updated 7:32 PM, May 2, 2023


BOISE, Idaho (Court TV) – Testimony on Tuesday in the trial of Lori Vallow Daybell focused on her fifth husband’s first wife, Tammy Daybell, and her relationship with her husband, Chad, immediately before her death.

Lori is charged with conspiring to kill Tammy, as well as the murders of her two youngest children, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan, whose remains were found buried on Chad’s property.

Dr. Erik Christensen, the Utah pathologist who conducted Tammy’s autopsy, began the day in court on Tuesday under cross-examination by Lori’s defense attorney. Christensen confirmed that it was not possible for him to say positively whether or not Tammy had suffered any seizures before her death, which Chad told people she had. Christensen testified that she was taking fluoxetine, also known as Prozac, which lists seizures among its potential long-term side effects.

Sketch of Erik Christensen testifying

Dr. Erik Christensen testifies in the trial of Lori Vallow Daybell on May 1, 2023. (Sketch by Lisa Cheney)

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Christensen made clear that while it could be possible that Tammy died from a seizure, he felt it was very very unlikely that it happened in this case.

Lori’s attorneys emphasized that Christensen initially had trouble identifying Tammy’s cause of death and had leaned towards poisoning at one point.

During re-direct, Christensen emphasized that extensive testing ruled any intoxicants out as a cause of death and that a seizure was very unlikely. Prosecutors also called attention to the fact that Chad maintained that Tammy had rolled out of bed after her death, which Christensen said would not happen without external force applied to the body.

Detective Bruce Mattingly, who works in Fremont County, Idaho, was the next witness to take the stand. He investigated Tammy’s health and looked at data from a FitBit she wore. Mattingly said that nothing stood out to him when he reviewed Tammy’s medical records, including no signs of seizure-like activity, low blood pressure or fainting.

Mattingly said that detectives analyzed a FitBit that was found on her nightstand, which indicated she was “very active up until the time of her death,” with approximately 300,000 steps recorded per month.

During Mattingly’s testimony, Court TV’s producer in the courtroom noted Lori whispering to her attorney.

Tammy was covered by two life insurance policies that totaled approximately $400,000 that was paid to Chad Daybell, according to Mattingly’s testimony.

Mattingly testified under cross-examination that at the time of Tammy’s death, Lori was in Hawaii and there was no evidence to suggest Lori was at the property that day . Lori’s lawyers also reiterated that Tammy was prescribed tramadol and fluoxetine for pain and depression.

During re-direct, Mattingly testified that the insurance companies investigated whether fraud had taken place, and that he learned during the course of his investigation that Chad was using the money from the life insurance to live in Hawaii with Lori.

Alice Gilbert, a friend of Tammy’s who knew the couple since moving to the neighborhood in 2017, was the next to take the stand. Alice also worked with Tammy in the LDS church. She described the pair as sharing a church calling.

WATCH: Jury Hears Tammy Daybell’s Voice in 911 Call

Alice testified that she observed Tammy and Chad at church, and while they appeared normal at first, she noticed a change in Chad’s behavior in 2019. Alice said that beginning then he became more distant to the point that it was noticeable.

Alice told the jury that in February 2019, Chad visited her house and was fixing the floor when he told her that “he had a vision of Tammy, that her time on earth was coming to an end and that it was fulfilled,” and said that he didn’t see her living past the age of 50.

Alice said she learned about Tammy’s death on the morning of October 19, when Tammy’s daughter, Emma, called her in tears. Emma said that her mother died in her sleep. During the phone call, Alice said that Chad grabbed the phone and told Alice not to tell anybody and to wait an hour. Chad said that he had to call the bishop, and so she needed to wait.

When Alice went over to the house approximately 90 minutes later, she said all the children and their spouses were there except for Mark, and described the kids as “stunned” and hardly speaking. Chad, she said, was not stunned.

sketch of Alice and Todd Gilbert testify at Lori Vallow Daybell's trial

Alice and Todd Gilbert testified in the trial of Lori Vallow Daybell on May 2, 2023. (Sketch by Lisa Cheney)

Alice said that when she heard the funeral and memorial were so soon, she asked if it had been planned, and though Chad said no, Alice testified that she felt that someone had planned it. “He just said no and that’s all he said, but it did catch me off guard. It did surprise me.”

Chad spoke at Tammy’s funeral, and Alice noted his speech was “more like a church talk than a spouse would speak about their other spouse.”

Alice said that Chad immediately said he was moving out and planned to move to Rexburg. She said the kids were there and “they seemed to go along with it, not really question him.” Alice described Emma as “struggling” and said she had trouble getting in contact with Chad.

A week after Tammy’s death, Alice said she reached out to Chad and asked to come over. He refused and instead came to her house. When he arrived, he told her that he “met the woman he was going to marry. We were shocked … he went on to say how beautiful she was.”

Chad told Alice that he had met Lori at a conference in October and at first was reluctant to reveal her name. Eventually, Lori was introduced to Alice, who described the couple as being affectionate, which she described as abnormal for Chad. She noted she and her husband were “embarrassed” by the behaviors because Lori and Chad “looked like teenagers.”

Mirroring the testimony of other friends, Alice said that Chad indicated that Lori had no other children and that she was an empty nester.

After Chad married Lori, they stopped in Idaho to show Alice wedding pictures. Alice testified she was surprised to see the couple married so soon.

When Lori was arrested and a bond hearing was set, Chad asked Alice and her husband if they would put their property up for bond. When they said they would think about it, he texted the next day, a Sunday, to say he had a bondswoman that could come and talk to them.

Alice testified that Chad had mentioned Lori recently losing a daughter, and while he initially denied mentioning Lori’s daughter, Alice said she began to press him on the subject. She testified, “Doesn’t Tylee want a life, a job, a car, a boyfriend? He said she didn’t like people and she didn’t like me,” noting he used the past tense.

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Todd Gilbert was the next witness to take the stand and also lived in Chad and Tammy’s neighborhood. Todd testified that, like Alice, Chad to him in February 2019 that he had a “vision that Tammy was going to die and move on before her 50th birthday.”

Todd said that the day Tammy died, Chad was “business-like” and that he mentioned Chad’s earlier statement about his vision. “I said to him, ‘Well, I guess it happened.’ He says, ‘Yes it did.’ He turned his back away from his kids…whispered that to me.” Chad told him he never mentioned the vision to his children.

Todd also described Chad and Lori as being extremely affectionate when they met, and that Lori and Chad refused to give a straight answer about how many children she had. When Todd asked Chad how Tammy would feel about his new relationship, he said that she visited him in spirit and said she was fine with everything.

During cross-examination, a portion of a podcast featuring Lori, Melanie Gibb and Zulema Pastenes was played for the jury. The first 40 minutes of the podcast, which ran nearly two hours in total, was played for the jury as the defense aimed to fill in the blanks of some of the religious meetings the group held.

Sketch of Lori Vallow Daybell listening to her podcast in court

Lori Vallow Daybell reacts to hearing her podcast played in court on May 2, 2023. (Sketch by Lisa Cheney)

Prosecutors repeatedly objected to the podcast being played for the jury, saying that it allowed Lori to make statements without going under cross-examination but their arguments were overruled by the judge. In the podcast, Lori can be heard saying that she feels her job is to wake up women warriors, and that Jesus has told her that her mission is to lift others in their own missions.

On the podcast, Lori described herself as a normal person who grew up in the church and said that she grew up in Southern California and Utah before her life turned really bad. She said that while she didn’t want to kill herself she wanted the Lord to take her. Lori said on the podcast that the Lord showed her herself as a warrior in the pre-existence who fought with Satan.

The recording features Lori saying that she met Melanie, whom she considered an instant sister because the Lord is working to build an army and calling people to do certain missions.

Todd testified that he did not believe the beliefs expressed in the podcast lined up with those of mainstream LDS beliefs and that Chad was starting to stray.