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Jurors to continue deliberating death penalty for Chad Daybell on Saturday

BOISE — After hearing from family members of JJ Vallow, Tylee Ryan and Tammy Daybell, 12 jurors who convicted Chad Daybell of triple murder returned to the deliberation room Friday to determine whether Chad Daybell deserves the death penalty.

The jury began those new deliberations at 2 p.m. and continued until almost 8:00 p.m. They will return to the courthouse Saturday morning to continue.

“I never got enough of him. Now, I’ve had all I will for the rest of my life and only have memories,” Kay Woodcock said of her murdered grandson, 7-year-old Joshua or JJ.

She said JJ would have celebrated his 12th birthday a few days ago if he hadn’t been killed.

“Today is an incredibly difficult and bittersweet day. I am filled with pride as I remember and speak about what an amazing grandson we had, and grief-stricken at speaking about how devastated I am at his loss,” she said.

Her statements were made Friday during the penalty phase of Daybell’s trial. A jury convicted him Thursday of three counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of his wife and his new wife’s two children. Those same jurors are now deciding whether he should receive the death penalty or life sentences for the crimes. is streaming the penalty phase live.

No mitigation evidence

Before the hearing began, Chad Daybell waived his right to present mitigation and allocution evidence during the penalty phase. The unusual decision was announced Friday outside of the jury’s presence.

This means Daybell declined to present witnesses or provide any reasons why he should not be given the death penalty. He also declined to personally speak to the jurors.

Daybell confirmed to the judge that he understood he had a right to present such evidence and also confirmed that he knew his attorney had prepared an argument and a case to present to the jury in his defense.

“That is my choice,” Daybell said.

Defense attorney John Prior still argued on behalf of his client in a brief opening and closing statements. He said it was Lori Daybell who changed Chad Daybell and created the person who committed these crimes.

He spoke about Chad Daybell’s mother, who testified that he was a shy young man from the quiet town of Springville. He said Chad Daybell served a Latter-day Saint mission, was married to Tammy Daybell for 29 years and raised five “wonderful children.”

“It takes two parents to do that, and they did that,” he said.

Prior cited multiple testimonies from people in Springville about how Chad Daybell was involved in his church and in Scouting — but said something changed around Christmas of 2018. His trajectory changed because a “bomb” came into his life bringing chaos — a woman with four previous husbands.

He said Daybell did not have a lot of experience with relationships or with being manipulated. “He wasn’t a worldly man.”

That is when the “crazy thoughts” and “amplification of these religious beliefs” in Chad Daybell began, Prior said, referring to unusual fundamentalist beliefs.

“Lori Vallow glittered, she was not gold. She was the trajectory that changed the plan,” Prior said.

‘Marked for death’

Madison County prosecutor Rob Wood, in his opening statement for the sentencing phase, said there were multiple aggravating factors in this case to show why Daybell should receive the death penalty.

He listed the aggravating factors, whether the murders were “committed for remuneration,” whether they were “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manifesting exceptional depravity,” and if Daybell exhibited “utter disregard for human act” or a “propensity to commit murder” that would constitute a continuing threat to others.

“It is your decision, it is your decision whether one or more of these aggravators has been proven, and if it has, then you must decide if under these circumstances imposition of the death penalty would be just or unjust,” Wood said.

In brief closing arguments, Fremont County prosecutor Lindsay Blake told the jury Tylee died two weeks after Lori Daybell received the first payment after transferring her Social Security deposits into an account with just Lori Daybell’s name; JJ died five days after Lori Daybell received the first payments for his Social Security payments; and Tammy Daybell died just over a month after her life insurance was increased.

“Chad formed the plan. That plan included manipulating those around him to ensure that he could end up on a tropical island with Lori Vallow, who eventually became Lori Vallow Daybell,” she said.

Blake said Chad Daybell taught those around him that he could mark someone for death, and determine when they should die.

“It didn’t matter the age of the victim, or who relied on them and loved them. If they were in the way of Chad and his plan … or if there was money to be gained for Lori and Chad, those individuals were marked for death,” she said.

She spoke about the heinous nature of the victims’ deaths and played the last short videos of JJ and Tylee, the day before their deaths, as well as a recording of Tammy Daybell introducing herself, before asking the jurors to consider what is just.

Prior’s response to the closing arguments was to argue that most of the allegations relate to Lori Daybell, and those that relate to Chad Daybell are all about religious beliefs. He said the case “had nothing to do with money” and argued that Daybell wasn’t present when the children were killed.

“Chad Daybell was never present for the actual murders,” he said.

JJ Vallow

Woodcock said she tried to describe how her family is suffering through each day, but doesn’t have words to show the impact, joy and love created by JJ or the pain associated with his death.

Woodcock said JJ was “born a fighter,” and spent weeks in intensive care before he was released to his grandparents. She said they went to so many doctors’ appointments with him, and he was their first priority.

She and her husband Larry Woodcock agonized over the decision to allow her brother Charles Vallow, and his wife, Lori Vallow Daybell, to adopt him. She said they visited every four or five months while they lived in Hawaii, and stayed “as long as possible” to soak up time with JJ.

“We never lost that special connection with our sweet little man, and we were always his love, comfort and safety,” Woodcock said.

Woodcock said the appreciation Lori Daybell expressed about them giving her custody of JJ “is just one part of why this causes so much pain. It is a betrayal that can’t be explained,” she said.

Woodcock said they are often “slammed” with the realization of milestones JJ won’t reach. She said they will never know who he would have grown up to be.

Woodcock also talked about the loss of her brother Charles Vallow, and her niece Tylee.

“There’s a hole in my heart, and the hearts of every member of my family, that will never be filled and will remain for the rest of my life,” she said.

Tylee Ryan

Colby Ryan, Tylee’s older brother, said he has lost his entire family, and is now without a mother, father, sister or brother. He said the impact of losing his siblings is “like a nuclear bomb dropping.”

“I lost the ability to watch Tylee and JJ grow up. I lost my relationship with my little brother which took years to build. … I lost the ability to sit with my little sister and talk and share our lives. So, in short, I lost everything I’ve ever known,” he said.

Ryan said his three children will never get to know or love his siblings, to “know the kindness of Tylee’s heart, or JJ’s silly goofy personality.”

“Tylee will never be able to travel like she always wanted to or have a family of her own, or find herself in this world. JJ will never be able to spread his love or his light around the world the way he used to,” Ryan said.

He said the only way forward is to trust in Christ, and know that his arms are around them. He said he prayed for others in the room who “have bleeding hearts.”

“It’s not an overstatement to say that I lost everything. But more importantly we all lost Tylee and JJ,” he said.

Annie Cushing, Tylee’s aunt, said she remembered a call from her brother Joe Ryan to say he had gotten married and his wife was having a baby. She said her brother was “the quintessential first-time father.”

In 2018, she reconnected with Tylee on a trip to Phoenix after her brother’s death — “she was intelligent, clever, funny, sarcastic, and had the voice of an angel,” Cushing said.

Cushing said they connected over pop culture, and Cushing’s career as an analyst — the same career as Ryan. She said Tylee did like people, disputing testimony by a neighbor that Chad Daybell said she did not.

“Tylee had her whole life ahead of her. She had dignity, she had dreams, she had goals. This defendant stole all of that,” Cushing said.

She said this case has created a “thousand cuts” and has impacted her family, health and perspective of the world. “Each detail that would come out over the past four years was just another cut,” she said.

Tammy Daybell

Although they spoke about the loss of their daughter and sister, members of Tammy Daybell’s family also said their strained relationships with her children has caused them grief. Ron Douglas, Tammy Daybell’s father, said when his wife died in June, she made him promise to continue visiting the Daybell grandchildren.

“The tragedy of the case has harmed our family’s relationship with the kids. I will remain open to rebuilding a relationship with them. It makes me angry, and it destroys me to know Tammy was treated how she was. I find it comforting to know that Tammy is resting peacefully in Utah, buried alone, and near her beloved mother,” he said.

Samantha Gwilliam, Tammy Daybell’s sister, said she felt something wasn’t right “from the moment I found out that she was gone.”

“So many questions come up as a quick funeral is arranged, no autopsy and no answers. As we find out about a quick marriage. I smell a rat,” she said.

She said her uneasiness grew as her family was questioned by police about missing children and when they learned that her body had been exhumed. She said days after she was asked about a pet cemetery, she watched “with the world” as the children’s bodies were recovered in the Daybell backyard.

“I wretched and sobbed over learning about JJ and Tylee. Two more victims, and no peace to be found for anyone,” she said.

And she said their worst fears were confirmed with the results of her sister’s autopsy.

Gwilliam said her sister was a force for good, who loved being a mom and a grandmother. She said it is a “cruel world” that took Tammy Daybell away and her absence has left a void.

“The lies, deception and murder have ripped our family apart. We do not feel peace. I am not a dark person or a zombie, and for me and my family to be portrayed this way is unacceptable,” she said.

Matthew Douglas, Tammy Daybell’s brother, said she was “the emotional heart and glue” of his siblings, and these events destroyed their family as they knew it.

“We’re finally getting to let our voices in some capacity finally be heard, in a meaningful manner. And we lived it, often minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day,” he said.

He called it a “never-ending nightmare,” and said every time he felt some control around the grief of his sister’s death, something new came.

Matthew Douglas talked about hearing from siblings that his brother-in-law got remarried and kept it from him, learning the day after the family Christmas party that his sister’s body had been exhumed but they didn’t know why, learning Chad Daybell’s new wife had children who were missing, and wondering why Lori and Chad Daybell fled to Hawaii.

He said he felt like he was being tossed in a “cheap holiday snow globe” where everything was loose.

“I still can’t wrap my head and my heart around the chain of events,” he said.

Matthew Douglas also said it hurt that some of the children of Chad and Tammy Daybell cut off ties with the Douglas family, choosing to defend their father.

“Having them not standing by their mother hurt,” he said. “If they ever want to rectify that position, or reconnect, they know where their uncle lives.”

Matthew Douglas was emotional as he said he has kids close to the ages of Tylee and JJ, and he is impacted by their deaths even without a family relation — they are tied together by the tragedy. He told the Woodcocks that his hearts hurt with them, and thanked them for being a voice for his sister.

Benjamin Douglas, Tammy Daybell’s youngest brother, said he became a father with twins just nine days before his sister’s death. He said his children only know their aunt from pictures, and a grave marker they often want to visit.

He said he is kept awake more by nightmares of someone close to him hurting his children than by caring for his twins. He said trust from decades of family time is broken.

His wife, Kelsie Douglas, said her children are “far too familiar with death” at 4½ years old, and do not know their cousins — a contrast to what the Daybell family was like when she married into it.

“All the things that made our family vibrant and united are now lost,” she said.

“Every joyful moment is overshadowed, memories are tarnished, especially those of my children’s early years,” she said.

Michael Douglas, Tammy Daybell’s oldest brother, said he was in shock when he heard about her death. He said after her funeral he felt something was off, but tried not to jump to conclusions.

“I probably should have done more jumping,” he said.

After receiving a phone call about the missing children, he said he can remember the feeling of “oh please, no” that he felt. He said he hoped it was a mistake. He said he was at an office when he learned their bodies were found, and began to sob.

“I broke into more pieces than I can count,” Michael Douglas said.

“When I learned of the results of the autopsy, I did not sleep for six weeks. The nightmare fodder that I have been provided will last a lifetime,” he said.

Six of the Daybell’s convictions are death-penalty eligible, the judge explained in his instructions to the jury on Thursday — first-degree murder of 7-year-old JJ, 16-year-old Tylee and Tammy Daybell, 49, and conspiracy to murder each victim.

Judge Steven Boyce said Daybell will be sentenced for the three other charges he was found guilty of — grand theft and two counts of insurance fraud — at a later date.

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