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Chad Daybell hearing
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Judge rules Chad Daybell should face trial in case of missing kids

Chad Daybell listens to an audio recording of a phone call between himself and his wife, Lori Daybell, during a preliminary hearing in Fremont County, Idaho on Aug. 4, 2020. Screen grab from courthouse video feed

MADISON COUNTY, Idaho — A judge has ruled there is enough evidence to send Chad Daybell to trial, after a second day in a preliminary hearing in the case involving the remains of JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan found in his backyard. 

Daybell faces two felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration, or concealment of evidence and two felony counts of destruction, alteration, or concealment of evidence.

Yesterday in court, the prosecution outlined new details about the investigation into the disappearance of Daybell’s stepchildren. Melanie Gibb, a friend of Lori Vallow, continued her testimony from the day before. She told the court the couple asked her to lie to law enforcement about the whereabouts of JJ Vallow. Gibb secretly recorded a conversation between her and Lori Vallow about the location of JJ Vallow, which was admitted as evidence. 

Today, testimony from Melanie Gibb continued, and the court heard from the law enforcement officers who found the human remains of JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan in Chad Daybell’s backyard. 

Melanie Gibb continues testifying 

Melanie Gibb was the first on the stand Tuesday morning. Daybell’s defense attorney, John Prior, questioned her about her relationship to Daybell. 

Gibb said she met Daybell two to three years ago at a preparedness camp in Morgan, Utah in connection with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She said she had a closer relationship with Daybell’s wife, Lori Vallow, than with him. 

Gibb admitted to initially lying to police about having JJ in her custody when she did not. She testified that when she got home from Utah, she immediately confessed to Gilbert, Arizona, police, and spoke with Officer Pillar for roughly two hours. 

Prior then questioned Gibb about her relationship to Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow. Gibb said she never had a relationship with Tylee and wasn’t able to establish a relationship with JJ.

David Warwick, Gibb’s boyfriend, was also called to testify about his relationship with Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell. On Sep. 23, 2019, Warwick said Vallow described JJ as “out of control” and a “zombie.” He testified Vallow called for her brother, Alex Cox, who is now deceased, to take JJ. 

A conversation from inside the jail

Lt. Jared Willmore with the Madison Co. Sheriff’s Office was called to testify on inmate communications. Willmore oversees the Madison County Jail. 

 

A recorded call between Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow, on June 9, 2020, was admitted into evidence. That was the day police searched Daybell’s property.

Related: Transcript of Lori Vallow’s call to Chad Daybell on day of children’s discovery

Vallow called Daybell from jail. Daybell said the police had a search warrant and were on his property. On the tape, Vallow is heard asking what she can do for Daybell.

“Iā€™m feeling pretty calm. I would call Mark (Vallow’s attorney) though and talk with him,ā€ responded Daybell.

They exchanged “I love you’s” and the phone call ended.

The search on Daybell’s property

FBI Special Agent Steve Daniels testified about the search on Daybell’s property. Daniels said he was contacted one week before the search to help create a search strategy. 

The number one priority going into the search, Daniels said, was the area around what they coined “the pet cemetery” because of a little dog statue in Daybell’s backyard. Upon searching, Daniels said the crew discovered a clandestine grave near the pond.

Once the team excavated down into the gravesite, Daniels said they uncovered a black plastic bag. Daniels said he took a razor blade to the bag and determined the bag was human remains when “possible human hair” spilled out onto his hands. 

Additionally, on another part of the property, Daniels said investigators discovered a “mass of dismembered human remains.” He said crews found a melted green bucket and next to it, a skull. To the side of the skull, there was a jawbone and teeth, according to Daniels. 

Technological evidence analyzed 

Benjamin Dean, an FBI  intelligence analyst, was called to the stand to go over technological evidence, such as cell phone records. 

In March, Dean started analyzing tips sent to the FBI from the public about the last time anyone saw Tylee Ryan alive, in Sep. 2019 at Yellowstone National Park. Dean also analyzed other technology found inside Daybell’s home. 

Dean described a text correspondence between Daybell and his deceased wife, Tammy. He said his main purpose for his presence at the hearing is to detail messages from Tammy Daybell’s phone. 

Closing arguments 

The prosecuting attorney, Rob Wood, argued there is probable cause to believe Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow were homicide victims based on the condition of their remains found on Daybell’s property. He said a felony proceeding should occur due to Daybell’s alleged attempt to conceal the remains on his property.

Additionally, Wood argued the dismemberment of the discovered remains proved the destruction, alteration, or concealment of evidence.

Daybell’s defense attorney, John Prior, called for the judge to drop both counts of felony charges due to lack of evidence. Prior argued nothing from the prosecution proved Daybell’s conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration, or concealment of evidence. 

Prior told the judge the prosecution did not meet the burden of proof. 

The ruling

Judge Faren Eddins ruled the prosecution met its burden of probable cause in the case against Chad Daybell, sending the case to trial.

The two felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration, or concealment of evidence and two felony counts of destruction, alteration, or concealment of evidence will not be dropped.

The case will move to District Court. The judge set an arraignment date for Aug. 24, 2020, but did not set a trial date.