Update: On Thursday, Lori Vallow's criminal trial was put on hold, as she was declared unfit to continue. This ruling will likely impact her murder trial, too. According to District Judge Steven Boyce, Vallow's trial was paused after her lawyer requested a mental evaluation, for which she was declared incompetent to continue. "The completed assessment determined that at this time the Defendant is not competent to proceed, and recommends restorative treatment," the judge wrote. It is unclear so far how this will impact Vallow's murder trial and whether or not that case may be paused, too.
This story was originally published on May 26, 2021.
On Tuesday, a grand jury in Idaho formally accused Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow of murder in connection with the deaths of Vallow's two children, Tylee Ryan and Joshua "JJ" Vallow. Additionally, Daybell has been charged with the murder of his ex-wife, Tammy Daybell, who allegedly died in her sleep only a few weeks before he married Vallow.
Arrest warrants were issued for the couple on Tuesday and they are to be held without bail. According to court documents, both Daybell and Vallow are being charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. They're already facing charges related to destroying and hiding evidence related to the disappearance of Tylee and JJ. Further, Daybell is charged with insurance fraud for altering his ex-wife's life insurance just over a month before she died, increasing the death benefit to the maximum amount. Vallow faces additional charges of grand theft for allegedly continuing to withdraw Social Security benefits for each of her children after their deaths. However, prosecutors are focused on the two children, who went missing and were eventually found dead.
"Every person who has worked on this case is to be commended for their diligence and steadfast pursuit of justice for Tammy, Tylee, and JJ,” Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood said in a statement.
Tylee and JJ's disappearance became national news in late 2019 when Daybell and Vallow promptly left Idaho for Hawaii after they were questioned by police about the whereabouts of the children and the recent death of Tammy Daybell. Both children were last seen on different days in September 2019, but Daybell and Vallow were not charged in connection with the children's disappearance until June 2020 when their remains were found on Daybell's property in Fremont County, ID.
The new indictments do not provide details on how investigators believe Tammy Daybell, Tylee, or JJ were killed, but they do cite the couple's "religious beliefs" as a factor in the murders. The grand jury cited evidence that Daybell and Vallow spoke over text of Tammy Daybell "being possessed by a spirit." Due to grand jury proceedings being held in strict confidence, sealing them from the public, it is unknown what evidence led the jury to indict when they did.
Vallow previously pleaded not guilty in September to two felony counts of conspiracy to destroy, alter, or conceal evidence following the discovery of the remains on Daybell's property. In August, Daybell pleaded not guilty to two charges of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration, or concealment of evidence and two felony counts of destruction, alteration, or concealment of evidence. As far as the murder charges are concerned, neither Daybell nor Vallow appear to have entered a formal plea yet.
The penalty for the murder charges alone range from life in prison without parole to the death penalty, reports ABC News. Prosecutors have not disclosed what penalty they will pursue, despite delays in the case due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I want to assure everyone that despite the delays, we have been working diligently to pursue justice for the victims in this case, to ensure we have the evidence required to prove the facts beyond a reasonable doubt in the court of law,” Fremont County Prosecutor Lindsey Blake told reporters.
Both suspects are scheduled to appear in court remotely on Wednesday, May 26, 2021.