The interview for this article was conducted immediately after the State and defense’s closing arguments on May 11. A jury would find Lori guilty the following day.
While the Ada County Courthouse brimmed with media and other interested parties over the six weeks Lori Vallow Daybell’s murder trial, the Madison County viewing room in Rexburg had its own fair share of loyal attendees. Among them were Idaho Falls resident Susan Taylor and Rexburg residents and true crime podcasters Kristi Brower and Katie Weaver.
In December 2019, Weaver read one of the first East Idaho News articles regarding missing children Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow, and a mother who wouldn’t tell anyone where they were. A month later, police would find Lori in Hawaii with her new husband, Chad Daybell, and no kids.
Weaver took interest immediately. She had a high school-age daughter, and they lived close to Lori’s former Pioneer Road apartment. Yet, they had never seen Tylee or JJ. As she proceeded to learn about Tammy Daybell’s suspicious death, she knew there was something “seriously wrong.”
She and her sister, Kristi Brower, began the True Crime Squad podcast in March 2020. Their first few recordings delved into unrelated crime stories, but beginning with their seventh episode, the pair would go on to record over 200 episodes on the Daybell case.
After informing her about the story, their aunt, Susan Taylor, became invested too.
The three sat through hours of trial testimony, ranging from Lori’s family members to forensic experts.
Taylor came two or three days a week.
Now she is relieved and satisfied with the trial’s completion.
“I think (the prosecution) put a very clear, precise case right in front of that jury,” Taylor said. “I think they will have no problem coming to the right verdict.”
Less than 24 hours later, the jury was ready to share their verdict: Guilty on all counts of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and grand theft in the deaths of Tammy Daybell, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan.
The three agreed that the cell phone data and text messages between Lori and her alleged co-conspirators, Chad Daybell and the late Alex Cox, were among the most important pieces of evidence presented by the State.
Lori’s messages alluded to her belief that her children harbored “dark spirits” and posed obstacles to her affair with Chad, whom she would marry two months after the children died and two weeks after Chad’s wife, Tammy, died. The two used a percentage scale to gauge how close they purportedly were to death. The closer someone was to zero, the closer that person was to dying.
JJ would be killed a month and a half after these texts were exchanged. Chad and Lori had similar discussions regarding Tylee and Tammy before their respective murders.
GPS data from Alex Cox’s cell phone placed him in position to be involved in the murders.
Investigators believe Cox acted as an enforcer or hitman for Chad and Lori based on his connection to the murders and his designation as Lori’s “protector.”
Brower and Taylor also said that Lori’s “admissions” in phone calls she had with her son, her sister and her friend, Melanie Gibb were key to the case.
After the State rested its case, the defense called no witnesses of its own and focused its closing argument on pinning the blame on Chad, who is expected to stand trial for the same charges within the next year.
But the only parts that resonated with Taylor, Weaver and Brower were defense attorney Jim Archibald’s quips at Chad’s “stupid” religiously-themed fiction books and his comparison of Chad’s physical appeal to that of Lori’s previous husband, Charles.
“I think (the defense) did the best they could with what they were handed,” Taylor said.
Taylor recalled that many in the true crime community were doubtful that Idaho could “get this right.”
“(The State) really proved they have their stuff together … I’m proud of them,” she continued.
The State’s failure to disclose evidence to the defense by the Court’s deadline opened the door to Judge Steven Boyce’s decision to remove the death penalty as a sentencing option for Lori.
But Weaver bucks the trend and said she is glad they took it off the table since it narrows the window for an appeal and the chances of an actual execution are slim.
The State of Idaho has never executed a woman and the only woman currently on death row has been there for about 30 years.
“We’re never putting a woman to death,” Weaver said.
Regardless, Lori faces life imprisonment and awaits sentencing in the Madison Women’s Detention Center. She faces two additional conspiracy charges in Arizona for the death of Charles and the attempted murder of her ex-nephew-in-law, Brandon Boudreaux.