The public awaits to hear the verdict for Lori Vallow Daybell after the jury heard closing arguments from the prosecution and the defense Thursday.
Lori is charged with three counts of first-degree murder, three counts of conspiracy to commit murder and one count of grand theft. Married to Chad Daybell, she is accused of having killed his first wife, Tammy, as well as her own children: JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan. Chad faces the same murder charges.
The State’s argument centered on Lori’s financial and sexual motives as well as her religious beliefs that they say she used to manipulate others to get what she wanted: money, power and sex.
The defense argued that Chad deceived Lori by convincing her that she had a special mission to prepare for Christ’s coming and that she had no knowledge of her children’s deaths.
State closing arguments
“Money, power and sex.”
Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood reiterated the State’s theme for this case as he began his closing remarks, stating that Lori used her religious beliefs to manipulate friends and family to acquire those three things.
Wood drew a timeline for the jury that started in October 2018 when Chad and Lori met at a conference in Utah and began a year-long affair during which four deaths occurred: Charles Vallow (Lori’s then husband) in July 2019, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan in September 2019, and Tammy Daybell in October 2019.
“Lori is convicted by the timeline she created,” Wood said.
In text messages to Chad recovered by law enforcement, Lori expressed frustration that Charles Vallow changed his life insurance beneficiary from her to Kay Woodcock, his sister. The payout amounted to $1 million. Still, she received $4,000 a month for being a widow.
In the weeks prior to her children’s murders, Lori had their Social Security “survivor” benefits transferred to her own personal account. Those funds amounted to thousands of dollars a month.
By marrying Chad Daybell in November 2019 just two weeks after his first wife’s death, Lori could “reap the benefits” of Tammy’s $430,000 life insurance policy, said Wood.
Wood also asserted that Lori held significant power over some of her friends and family by acting as a “conduit” between them and God. According to prior testimony, Alex Cox, Lori’s brother, was called by Chad as Lori’s “protector”. With this designation, he was involved in all of the alleged murders and attempted murders in this case.
Other individuals in Chad and Lori’s inner circle included Melanie Boudreaux, Melanie Gibb, Audrey Barratiero and Zulema Pastenes. All except Boudreaux and Cox, who is deceased, testified in the trial as to Lori and Chad’s beliefs that they were called to prepare for Christ’s coming by gathering the 144,000 mentioned in the New Testament’s book of Revelation. They also said the two taught them that dark spirits inhabited the bodies of several people close to them at varying levels.
“The only reason religion matters is because it’s the tool they used to manipulate others,” Wood said. “Who is the common thread here? Lori Vallow.”
Before their deaths, Chad and Lori had text conversations in which they referred to Charles, Tammy, JJ and Tylee as “dark”, “possessed” and “zombies”. Wood argued that Lori used these beliefs as justifications for killing them because she saw them as “obstacles” to her relationship with Chad.
Defense closing arguments
Jim Archibald, one of Lori’s defense attorneys, painted Lori as a loving mother who became enamored by Chad Daybell after he told her that she was a “sexual goddess” and that together they would fulfill a “special mission” to gather the 144,000.
He argued that since Chad made little money from the “stupid” books he wrote, he stood to benefit more by marrying Lori than Lori did by marrying him — Charles earned between $400,000 and $500,000 a year as the owner of a financial investment firm.
Archibald also asked the jury to consider that Lori killing Charles would be a “step down” as he implied that Charles had more sexual appeal than Chad did.
He told the jury that according to the evidence, Lori was not physically present for any of the murders.
“No one here thinks Lori actually killed anyone,” Archibald said. “That’s why she’s being charged with conspiracy.”
In reading the Court’s jury instructions earlier in the day, Judge Steven Boyce reminded the jurors that in Idaho, a defendant can be found guilty of murder even if that person did not directly commit the act.
Archibald asked the jurors to listen to the jailhouse call between Chad and Lori again at the time police searched his property.
“Chad knew but does she know that Chad and Alex stuffed her kids in Chad’s backyard? … Make your determination,” said Archibald.
Archibald also challenged the State’s contention that Lori wanted power by saying that in regard to their beliefs, she had “zero converts” while Chad had “maybe six”.
He concluded by saying Lori loved her kids, followed Jesus and was lured by Chad’s promises.
Wood began the State’s rebuttal by reiterating that Lori is the common thread in all of the deaths in the case.
“The defense says she’s not a killer,” Wood said. “She is a killer.”
He refuted the defense’s transfer of blame to Chad as a cult-like leader with a reference to a text in which Chad says he will follow Lori to the ends of the universe. He also referenced other texts in which Lori said she was losing her patience waiting to be with him.
Wood implored the jury to “make it count for Lori” that Tylee would never go to college, that JJ died with a plastic bag over his head and that Tammy had to die so she could get her money.
The jury adjourned Thursday evening and will return Friday morning to continue deliberations.