Tammy Daybell’s death was a homicide, coroner in Lori Vallow Daybell trial says

Apr 28, 2023, 10:49 AM | Updated: 3:32 pm

samantha gwilliam testifies about sister tammy daybell in court sketch...

Samantha Gwilliam testifies about her sister, Tammy Daybell. (Courtroom sketch)

(Courtroom sketch)

BOISE, Idaho — Jurors heard more testimony in the trial of Lori Vallow Daybell on Friday, this time focused on Tammy Daybell. Testimony from a Fremont County coroner revealed that Tammy’s manner of death was a homicide.

Lori is charged with conspiring to murder Tammy. She’s also charged with the murder of her two children, Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow

Sister of Tammy Daybell testifies

Samantha Gwilliam, Tammy’s sister, testified first Friday. She highlighted the strange series of events leading up to and immediately following Tammy’s death.

She told the jury that she found it odd that Chad married Lori right after Tammy’s death.

Gwilliam testified that later, she asked Chad about Lori’s kids. According to Gwilliam, Chad said there were no kids and said he and Lori would be “empty nesters.”

Masked man

Jurors then heard testimonies and two 911 call recordings about an incident Tammy had with a masked man less than two weeks before her death.

On Oct. 9, 2019, Tammy was in front of her home, taking groceries out of her car. A man in a ski mask came up to her. He appeared to be carrying a paintball gun and shot twice before running away. Police didn’t find any paint or shell casings at the scene.

911 call reporting Tammy Daybell dead

Christine West, a dispatcher at the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, testified that she took a 911 call on Oct. 19, 2019, reporting 49-year-old Tammy’s death.

The full 911 call was played for the courtroom. In it, someone is heard wailing in the background. Chad and Tammy’s son Garth Daybell both spoke to West during the call.

Garth told West he had found his mom’s body. Chad then took over to give his address. 

At one point, Chad said told the dispatcher that Tammy was clearly dead. He cried throughout the call.

The morning of Tammy’s death

The prosecution then called three witnesses that had responded to the scene the morning of Tammy’s death. All three reported that Chad was distraught.

Chad told responders that Tammy vomited and coughed the night before.

At 5:40 a.m., Chad said he noticed that Tammy had partially fallen onto the floor. Tammy’s body was laid on the bed when first responders arrive. Chad said she had been moved.

Fremont County Coroner Brenda Dye testified that Tammy’s body indicated that she died laying down and not halfway on the floor.

 Dye testified that Chad reported Tammy a history of seizures in the past — but he hadn’t mentioned this until Dye asked him about seizures.

Testimony and photos showed reddish-pink foam on and around Tammy’s mouth, which raised red flags for one witness.

Dye determined that Tammy died of natural causes, testifying that Chad convinced her that nothing was off about the death.

Chad did not want an autopsy done, a decision that worried Tammy’s friends and coworkers. Dye decided not to perform one.

Tammy was buried three days after her death, but her body was exhumed in December of 2019. An autopsy report released by prosecutors in April 2023 found that she died of asphyxiation.

During Dye’s testimony, the jury learned that Tammy’s manner of death was homicide.

Coworkers and friends testify

The final pieces of testimony on Friday came from three employees of the Sugar Salem School District. Tammy worked for a middle school within the district.

Jurors heard about an email sent to Tammy, from Charles Vallow‘s email address. Charles is Lori’s late husband.

Within Tammy’s account, Charles’ email address was marked as blocked. No one else appeared on the list of blocked addresses.

Two friends of Tammy’s, who also worked for the district, told the jury Tammy was fit and appeared in good health. 

One of those friends, Shanna Miller, testified that she saw Tammy the day before she died. Miller said she looked happy and healthy and had no cough.

Testimony continues on Monday.

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Tammy Daybell’s death was a homicide, coroner in Lori Vallow Daybell trial says