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Chad Daybell sentenced to death in triple murder trial

BOISE, Idaho (ABC4) — After roughly seven weeks of testimony, Chad Daybell has been sentenced to death in the gripping triple murder trial that found him guilty in the deaths of his two stepchildren and former wife.

An Ada County court jury on Thursday deemed Daybell, 55, guilty of three counts of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and insurance fraud in the 2019 deaths of Tammy Daybell, 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow, and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan.

Prosecutors pushed for the death penalty — and the same jurors who found Daybell guilty were tasked with deciding if his crimes meet the state’s legal threshold for capital punishment. After deliberation, the court announced the death penalty sentencing Saturday morning.

Under Idaho law, there are eleven circumstances the jury must take into account when determing if the death penalty is warranted. One of them is if the murder was especially heinous, cruel or “manifesting exceptional depravity.” Another is if the defendant exhibited “utter disrgard for human life” during the murder or the circumstances surrounding it.

The jury must find at least one of the circumstances exists beyond a reasonable doubt.

The bizarre and complex case began in September 2019, when extended family members reported the JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan missing and law enforcement officials launched a search that spanned several states. The subsequent investigation took several unexpected turns.

Chad Daybell and Vallow Daybell were having an affair when both of their spouses died unexpectedly, investigators said. Vallow Daybell’s husband was shot to death by her brother Alex Cox in Arizona in July 2019; the brother told police it was in self-defense. He was not charged.

Vallow Daybell, her kids JJ and Tylee, and Cox subsequently moved to eastern Idaho to be closer to Daybell, a self-published writer of doomsday-focused fiction loosely based on teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In October 2019, Tammy Daybell died. Chad Daybell initially told police she was battling an illness and died in her sleep, but an autopsy later determined that she died of asphyxiation. Chad Daybell and Vallow Daybell married just two weeks after Tammy Daybell died, surprising family members.

Nearly a year after the children went missing, their remains were found buried on Chad Daybell’s property in eastern Idaho. Investigators later determined both children died in September 2019. Prosecutors say Cox conspired with Chad Daybell and Vallow Daybell in all three deaths, but Cox died of natural causes during the investigation and was never charged.

Prosecutors called dozens of witnesses to bolster their claims that Chad Daybell and Vallow Daybell conspired to kill the two children and Tammy Daybell because they wanted to get rid of any obstacles to their relationship and to obtain money from survivor benefits and life insurance.

Prosecutors say the couple justified the killings by creating an apocalyptic belief system that people could be possessed by evil spirits and turned into “zombies,” and that the only way to save a possessed person’s soul was for the possessed body to die.

Fremont County prosecutor Lindsay Blake said Daybell styled himself a leader of what he called “The Church of the Firstborn” and told Vallow Daybell and others that he could determine if someone had become a “zombie.” Daybell also claimed to be able to determine how close a person was to death by reading what he called their “death percentage,” Blake said.

With these elements, Daybell followed a pattern for each of those who were killed, Blake said.

“They would be labeled as ‘dark’ by Chad Daybell. Their ‘death percentage’ would drop. Then they would have to die,” she said in her closing argument.

Daybell’s defense attorney, John Prior, rejected the prosecution’s descriptions of Daybell’s beliefs. He described Daybell as a traditional member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a deeply religious man who talked about his spiritual beliefs every chance he could get.

Prior said police looked only for things they could use against Daybell rather than the actual facts of the case — and he claimed that the children’s late uncle, Cox, committed the crimes.

He noted that Cox had previously killed JJ Vallow’s father in Arizona and that the two children were the only witnesses to that shooting. He also said Cox tried to frame Daybell by burying the slain children in Daybell’s yard.

Prior said that Vallow Daybell was only motivated by money and that she was conspiring with Cox to kill Daybell, who was lined up to be her next victim.

Last year, Vallow Daybell was convicted of murdering her two children and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosectutors didn’t seek the death penalty in her case.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Source: Fox 8 News Channel

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