‘Money, power, and sex’: opening arguments begin in Lori Vallow Daybell trial

Apr 10, 2023, 11:08 AM | Updated: Apr 20, 2023, 3:51 pm

Lori Vallow Daybell looked at her sister, Summer Shiflet, when Summer entered the Ada County courtr...

The second day of the fourth week of Lori Vallow Daybell's trial began with more information about timelines, and then a devastating phone call between sisters.

BOISE, Idaho — Opening arguments began Monday in the Lori Vallow Daybell Trial, with the prosecution introducing Vallow Daybell as someone who was after “money, power and sex.”

Vallow Daybell is charged with seven felonies. She and her husband Chad Daybell are accused of murdering her two children, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan. Vallow Daybell is also accused of conspiring to murder Daybell’s late wife, Tammy Daybell.

Vallow Daybell has pleaded not guilty. Chad Daybell’s trial will be held separately and at a later date.

“Money, power and sex. That’s what this case is about. The defendant Lori Vallow Daybell used money, power and sex or the promise of those things, to get what she wanted,” prosecutor Lindsey Blake said.

The prosecution said it didn’t matter what obstacle Vallow Daybell had to remove to get what she wanted; even if it was a person, it didn’t matter who.

Blake went through the victims: JJ, Tylee, and Tammy. Vallow Daybell is accused of taking part in their deaths.


The prosecution displayed photos of the remains of Tylee, charred and unrecognizable, and of JJ, who was found in a garbage bag with arms and legs duct-taped.

Blake explained that Tylee was a “vibrant person” just about to enter adulthood, Blake claims Vallow Daybell wanted the money, and now Tylee is gone.

Tylee’s DNA was found on a shovel and pick-ax in a shed on Chad Daybell’s property.

Blake described JJ as “a good 7-year-old” who “required a lot of time, effort and energy” which took away from what Vallow Daybell wanted — which Blake claimed was spending time with Chad Daybell. JJ was also entitled to social security benefits.

“The defendant didn’t want to take care of JJ anymore, wanted the money, and now JJ is gone,” Blake told the jury.

Tammy Daybell was brought up next as a 45-year-old mother of five, and a computer whiz. According to Blake, Chad Daybell was the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, and Vallow Daybell wanted “those things.” “Tammy is gone,” Blake said.

A photo of Tammy Daybell’s body was shown to the courtroom.

The prosecution said only 17 days later, Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell were back in Hawaii. “They were getting married on a sunny beach in Hawaii dancing and celebrating their life together, while Tylee and JJ were dead in the ground.”

As the prosecution explained the developing relationship between Vallow Daybell and Daybell, the photo of Tammy Daybell’s body remains on the screen.

“Their relationship moved quickly,” Blake said.

Both Vallow Daybell and Chad were still married at the time.

Chad held strong religious beliefs and Vallow Daybell believed, with the help of Chad, she could rate people’s “light or dark.”

With time, their religious beliefs began to evolve and they began to believe the darkness could be so intense that the person would become a zombie.

“A common theme was the body had to be destroyed,” Blake said.

Blake claimed Vallow Daybell and Chad used their religion to justify their actions, from affair to murder.

Prosecution explains the relationship between Vallow Daybell and Alex Cox.

“Alex would do anything for Lori…when she uprooted her life from Arizona and moved up to Idaho, and moved to Rexburg to be closer to Chad,” Blake said. “Alex quit his job and moved up to Rexburg with her.”

According to Blake, Alex was taught by Vallow Daybell and Chad that his purpose was to “protect Lori.”

Vallow Daybell began to describe both JJ and Tylee as having darkness.

Then in October 2019, Vallow Daybell traveled to Arizona first and then to Hawaii with friends.

“During any of these trips, you won’t hear about Tylee or JJ,” Blake said. “But what you will hear is how Lori was still spending their money, sending Colby Ryan messages using Tylee’s phone. Tylees phone was with Lori, but Tylee wasn’t.”

After returning to Idaho, Vallow Daybell began inserting herself into Chad’s life and Chad even introduced her to some of his neighbors just over a week after Tammy’s death.

The two acted as if they had no previous marriages or children.

“When Chad made a life insurance policy, Chad said he didn’t have any children,” Blake said. “And when he was looking for a rental in Hawaii, he said the same thing. “

Then on Nov. 26, 2019, law enforcement showed up at Vallow Daybell’s home looking for JJ but found Chad and Alex.

She was “less than forthcoming with law enforcement at the time,” and told them JJ was in Arizona with a friend. Alex told law enforcement JJ was with his grandparent, Kay Woodcock.

“While Chad and Lori were starting their new life together in Hawaii, law enforcement had started a massive search for JJ and Tylee,” Blake said.

Melanie Gibb, a friend of Vallow Daybell’s, told law enforcement “Lori told her to cover for her,” and “snap a picture of some kids.”

By Dec. 8, Gibb called Lori and wanted to know where JJ was and why they asked her to lie.

Gibb recorded the call. Vallow Daybell refused to tell her but said “she knew exactly where JJ was,” and “claimed he was happy.”

Blake released the autopsy results of Tammy Daybell, revealing the cause of death to be asphyxiation and not a heart attack as previously believed.

Tammy was married to Chad Daybell for 28 years before she reportedly died in her sleep. Chad has been charged with her murder, he’s pleaded not guilty.

Vallow Daybell has been accused of conspiring to murder Daybell’s late wife, Tammy Daybell. Vallow Daybell has pleaded not guilty.

Tammy’s death was considered suspicious and her remains were exhumed on Dec. 11, 2019. An autopsy was performed the same day, less than two months after her death.

The results of that autopsy have never been shared with the public, being cited as part of the investigation.

Blake explained that in October of 2019, Tammy came face to face with a masked man pointing a gun at her. That same day, according to Blake, Vallow Daybell called an “unnamed individual” and said, “he can’t do anything right.”

Vallow Daybell also called Chad.

The day Tammy was confronted by a gunman, Alex was in the location.

“The only person Alex Cox knew in the same are was Chad Daybell,” Blake said.

The last time Tylee was seen, Alex’s phone was pinged to the backyard of Chad’s property, near where Tylee’s remains were found. Chad was also in that area.

Blake concludes, “When Tylee was found, all that was found were charred remains. Tylee’s hands were gone. JJ’s hands were duct-taped and bound to his body, and Chad and Lori were in Hawaii with ‘all obstacles gone.’”

Blake reminds the jury to be attentive, apply common sense, and give every piece of evidence the weight “you think it is due.”

Defense gives opening statement

The defense, led by R. James (Jim) Archibald, begins with explaining how people were attracted to Vallow Daybell’s “pretty smile,” and her “fun-loving, happy-go-lucky personality.”

She lived in Idaho for less than a month before the deaths. “She believes in life after death, and believes she will see her deceased family again,” Archibald said.

Tylee was born in 2002 and was a “ray of sunshine,” according to Archibald.

“Lori was such a good mom that Kay Woodcock asked her to adopt JJ in 2014,” Archibald said. “The evidence will show that Lori was a beautiful wife to Charles Vallow…she was a kind and loving mother to her children.”

Archibald brought up Vallow Daybell’s religious beliefs concerning the end of times.

“Some people could care less about religious teachings, some people care a lot,” he said. “Thankfully in this country we can worship how we choose.”

Archibald said the story starts when Chad and Vallow Daybell met.

“What happened? How did these children die? Who is involved? When did it happen? Where did it happen, and why?” Archibald asked the jury.

Archibald read the charges to the courtroom again and reminded the jury that Chad and Alex are not on trial here. The charge is “did she assist, encourage, or command.”

“This charge is saying, we’re not sure what happened. But they want you to be sure,” Archibald said. 

Mentioning Tammy Daybell’s death Archibald said, “That’s the challenge here, for you, is you’re going to be given lots of alternatives and you’re going to have to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.”  

Archibald explains that if, after considering evidence, or lack of evidence, “you have a reasonable doubt about Lori’s guilt, you must find her not guilty.”

Archibald claimed Vallow Daybell was in her own apartment in Rexburg when JJ and Tylee died in the apartment of Alex Cox in Rexburg. Vallow Daybell was in Hawaii when Tammy Daybell died at the home of Chad Daybell in Salem.

“You need to focus on what Lori did, not Chad,” Archibald said. “You’re here to determine if there even was a conspiracy. Cases again can be solved with evidence, they can be solved with a lack of evidence.”  

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‘Money, power, and sex’: opening arguments begin in Lori Vallow Daybell trial