A jury in Idaho found Lori Vallow Daybell guilty on Friday of murdering two of her children and of conspiring to murder her husband’s former wife in a case that drew widespread attention for what prosecutors described as her “doomsday” religious beliefs.
A sentencing date has not been set. Before the trial started, Judge Steven Boyce, of the Seventh Judicial District, granted a request from Ms. Vallow Daybell’s lawyers to take the death penalty off the table.
The trial, in Boise, Idaho, began on April 3, after years of delays. Ms. Vallow Daybell had initially been declared not competent to stand trial and was required to undergo psychiatric treatment.
In opening statements, prosecutors described her as a negligent mother who believed she was on a “religious mission” that she viewed as being more important than caring for her children.
Prosecutors said she believed her children were “zombies” possessed by evil spirits.
By Wednesday, weeks into the trial, the prosecution had called about 60 witnesses, according to a local news station, Fox 10. Closing arguments were delivered on Thursday.
Ms. Vallow Daybell did not testify in her own defense, and her lawyers rested their case without calling a single witness, Boise State Public Radio reported. Her lawyers told the judge that they did not believe the state had proven its case.
Judge Boyce had banned cameras from the courtroom throughout the trial at the request of Ms. Vallow Daybell’s lawyers. But he allowed the verdict to be streamed online on Friday.
Ms. Vallow Daybell, 49, and her husband, Chad Daybell, 54, had been indicted by a grand jury, and had pleaded not guilty in connection with the deaths of two of Ms. Vallow Daybell’s children, Tylee Ryan, 16, and Joshua Vallow, 7, known as J.J.
In addition to being convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of the children, and of grand theft, Ms. Vallow Daybell was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the death of Tammy Daybell, Mr. Daybell’s former wife. Mr. Daybell has been charged with first-degree murder in that death.
After the verdict was read, Larry Woodcock, J.J.’s grandfather, told reporters outside the courthouse that his heart hurt.
“From the very get-go, it started with two children missing, and I stood up and said: ‘Where are the children? Where are the children? Where are the children?’” Mr. Woodcock said. He that he planned to attend the sentencing so that he could ask Ms. Vallow Daybell directly: “Why, Lori? Why, Lori? Why?”
Tylee and J.J. were reported missing in November 2019 by J.J.’s grandparents. Officers with the Rexburg Police Department in Idaho attempted a welfare check and later executed search warrants at the apartment complex where Ms. Vallow Daybell and her husband lived, but the authorities said the couple seemed unconcerned with the children’s whereabouts.
In February 2020, Ms. Vallow Daybell was arrested in Hawaii on a warrant issued by the authorities in Idaho, after, they said, she had not cooperated with the effort to find the missing children. In June 2020, investigators found human remains buried on Mr. Daybell’s property in Idaho that were later identified as belonging to his wife’s missing children.
At Ms. Vallow Daybell’s trial, Detective Ray Hermosillo of the Rexburg Police Department described photographs of the children’s remains. A DNA analyst testified that a hair found stuck to duct tape wrapping J.J.’s body matched his mother, according to The Associated Press.
Former friends of Ms. Vallow Daybell spoke about the couple’s purported religious beliefs at the trial. One, Melanie Gibb, said that Ms. Vallow Daybell believed that evil spirits could turn people into “zombies” by taking over their bodies, and that she called J.J. and Tylee “zombies,” The A.P. reported.
Detective Hermosillo said at the trial that Tylee’s remains had been burned and packed into a bucket that was buried elsewhere on Mr. Daybell’s property.
Mr. Daybell was arrested and charged with concealing evidence, and both he and Ms. Vallow Daybell have been in custody since they were arrested. The two were being tried separately.
Tammy Daybell was found dead in her Idaho home in October 2019. The authorities initially said that she appeared to have died of natural causes, but her body was exhumed that December after the authorities began to question the circumstances of her death and its potential connection to the disappearances of Ms. Vallow Daybell’s children.
At the start of the trial, prosecutors revealed in court that an autopsy later determined that Tammy Daybell died of asphyxiation. Mr. Daybell had increased the amount of coverage in a life insurance policy for her in September 2019, a little more than a month before her death. Ms. Vallow Daybell and Mr. Daybell married shortly after their spouses died.
Mr. Daybell still would face the death penalty if convicted, although the state of Idaho has not executed a prisoner since 2012, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
The murders were the subject of a Lifetime movie, “Doomsday Mom: The Lori Vallow Story,” and a Netflix documentary series, “Sins of Our Mother.”