Daybell defense attorneys seek to remove prosecutor for “misconduct”

Jan 5, 2021, 9:04 AM | Updated: Jan 6, 2021, 12:53 pm

ST. ANTHONY, Idaho — The defense attorneys for both Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell want the prosecutor removed over accusations of misconduct, saying he attempted to “coerce, unduly influence, coach, and or intimidate” witnesses.

Both Lori Vallow Daybell’s attorney, Mark Means, and Chad Daybell’s attorney, John Prior, filed similar motions in Idaho courts last month to disqualify prosecutor Rob Wood from trying their cases.

Daybell attorneys allege prosecutor intimidated witnesses

The Daybells face multiple felony charges in relation to the death and disappearance of Lori Vallow Daybell’s two children, 7-year-old JJ Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan. The two children disappeared in late 2019; authorities discovered their bodies buried on Chad Daybell’s property in June 2020.

Means and Prior claim to have received audio recordings from a conversation Wood had with Lori Vallow Daybell’s sister, Summer Shiflet, in October. They also allege Wood engaged in another inappropriate conversation with an acquaintance of the Daybells, Zulema Pastenes, around the same time. Both women are witnesses in the case against the Daybells. 

In Means’ motion, he says that the recording “clearly illustrates Mr. Wood’s attempt to coerce, unduly influence, coach, and or intimidate said material witness to this case,” and as such has violated Idaho’s Rules of Professional Conduct and his actions could be seen as witness intimidation or tampering.

This, both lawyers say, means that their clients cannot receive a fair and impartial trial.

Wood has denied those allegations.

A timeline of the missing Idaho children

“At no time did I coerce, unduly influence, coach, and or intimidate any witness or instruct a witness how to respond to any questions by law enforcement,” Wood said in an affidavit.

Wood said both conversations happened after Pastenes reached out to his office and to law enforcement through her lawyer, without Wood’s knowledge or consent.

“The recordings provided by the Defense were recorded without my knowledge or consent and do not include the entirety of the conversations among me, Mr. Smith, Mrs. Shiflett, and Ms. Pastenas, and as such appear at some level to be incomplete and/or possibly edited.”

Wood also said that the entire time he spoke with the two women, their lawyer, Arizona attorney Garrett Smith, accompanied and represented them. 

Last week, District Judge Steven Boyce denied the state’s motion for a Judicial Protective Order that would have prevented those involved or the audio from the call from being shared on social media or with the news media.

The hearing to decide if Wood may continue to prosecute the case will happen on Wednesday morning at 9 am.

The recording in question

During testimony given on Wednesday morning, the conversation recorded by Shiflet’s lawyer recorded between her and Wood was submitted and entered into the record.

Before playing the tape Arizona attorney Garrett Smith confirmed he was the one who made the recording but said he did not remember if he specifically informed Wood that he would be recording the conversation, but he was legally authorized to do so because Arizona is a single party consent state.

Smith said that one of the reasons that he made the recording was to protect his client’s exposure for perjury, but as the conversation progressed he said he became uncomfortable.

“I was bothered by it, to the point that I called Mr. Means and said you ought to be aware of a few things.” 

When asked what he was bothered about Smith said that during the conversation, Wood and Shiflet discussed the potential charges and evidence that has yet to be offered. He also concerned about statements that Wood made about Vallow Daybell’s lawyer Mark Means.

“I thought it was at a minimum unprofessional, and on the other level placing yourself in an improper role with a witness,” he continued.

Smith said he began the recording after the group entered a recording room to ensure he had a record of the conversation after he saw that Wood had brought a deputy with him fearing that the conversation would become adversarial and he would need a copy to act as a witness.

At the beginning of the recording, Wood can be heard telling Shiflet that they would be filing conspiracy to commit murder charges against Chad and Lori.

“I’m gonna tell you right now we are going to be filing conspiracy to commit murder charges against both Chad and Lori. We’re not shy about that, I’ve told their attorneys about that.”

He then went on to say that he wanted to give her some background of where they were at and their theory about how they ended up where they were.

“The one thing I’m going to ask you to consider is maybe something happened. I don’t know what, I don’t know if its psychological, I don’t know. I don’t know if we’ll ever know. But something happened.”

Comments about Chad Daybell

Later during the call Wood and Shiflet spoke about her interactions with Lori’s husband Chad.

“He’s highly intuitive. I’m not going to say he’s highly intelligent, but you don’t have to be highly intelligent to be highly manipulative,” Wood said.

“He’s extremely manipulative, and your sister manipulated him in some ways too.

“The context for everything that happened. And unfortunately, we do have enough evidence to prosecute him and we are. But the case against your sister is stronger.”

Wood said that Daybell entered the scene and, “blew up the situation.”

“He did not care who died or who got hurt. He did not care at all.”

Wood also related a story later in the conversation about his experience when he was there in Hawaii when the couple was served papers to produce their children back in Idaho.

“Your sister put on a brave face… and while she was very stoic like I’m not gonna say a word. [Chad] looked like he was about to pee his pants.”

Lori wanted to speak to the prosecution

During the conversation, Wood also told Shiflet that Lori had made gestures of wanting to speak to them.

“Your sister’s actually made some overtures she might be willing to talk to us and we hope she does,” he said.

“She actually was talking about with Chad, about talking to us before we found the bodies, just a few days before, and he talked her out of it. Which is too bad. It would have been better for her to tell us… And he talked her out of it.

“And then the night before she says, ‘Hey what do you think about, you know’ and he uses this, kind of I call it spiritual abuse, spiritual manipulation. You know, we’ve all seen that guy in the LDS religion whose wife has to obey him because he has the priesthood type thing, and that’s not what he says, but it’s very, it’s the same type of thing.”

Comments about Lori’s counsel Mark Means

“Our goal is to have such a strong case that when she has competent counsel, I don’t know if you know this, but her attorney has never handled a felony before. He has never, never done any meaningful criminal work at all, and he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s a nice guy, but he doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

Wood said their plan is that when they bring about their new charges that they are hoping that if she was appointed new counsel that they would advise Lori to talk. 

The death penalty

One of the last things that was discussed on the call was the potential that Chad and Lori could face the death penalty.

“I was going to ask you… about the conspiracy to commit murder. What’s the weight of that in terms of… Is the death penalty a thing?” Shiflet asked.

“This is a death penalty case now,” Wood responded.

Wood said the decision on whether or not the will seek the death penalty had not been made yet, but he had no desire to pursue it.

“I have no desire to do that. Plus once you do that its endless appeals, and I don’t think that the other family wants it at all, because the case is never resolved generally.

“We’re sure hoping not to go down that road. Now, I’m not saying I won’t if we go to trial. I might. But I think we haven’t made up our minds on that.”



Idaho court rules to combine Chad and Lori Daybell trials

Exclusive 3D model offers unique view of Daybell crime scene

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Daybell defense attorneys seek to remove prosecutor for “misconduct”