Chad Daybell Could Face Death Penalty Over Deaths of 2 Step-Children, First Wife

Chad Daybell, who has been charged in connection with the deaths of his two step-children and first wife, may face the death penalty in an Idaho court, the Associated Press reported. Prosecutors for the case announced they would be seeking the death penalty in court documents filed on Thursday.

The filings said the cruelty of Daybell's alleged murders and the financial gain that prosecutors believe motivated the killings would make him an enduring threat to society if he remained alive, according to the Associated Press. Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell, the mother of the two deceased step-children, both face charges of conspiracy, murder and grand theft related to the deaths of 7-year-old Joshua Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan.

Both defendants are facing comparable charges for the death of Tammy Daybell, Chad's first wife, who died weeks before he and Lori got married, the Associated Press reported. The prosecutors have not indicated whether they plan to push for the death penalty for Lori.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Chad Daybell May Face Death Penalty
Prosecutors in Idaho say they will seek the death penalty against Chad Daybell in connection with the deaths of Lori Daybell's two youngest children and Chad Daybell's previous wife last year. This August 4, 2020, photo shows Chad Daybell during a court hearing in St. Anthony, Idaho. John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register via AP

And in Arizona, Lori Daybell is charged with conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the death of her previous husband. Charles Vallow was shot and killed by Lori Daybell's brother, Alex Cox, who claimed it was self-defense. Cox later died of what police said were natural causes.

Chad Daybell has pleaded not guilty to all the charges, and his attorney John Prior declined to comment on the matter. Lori Daybell has not yet entered a plea in the Idaho or Arizona cases, and was ordered to undergo treatment at a mental health facility in Idaho in hopes of making her competent to stand trial. Her attorney Mark Means didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the Idaho indictments, prosecutors said the Daybells promoted their apocalyptical religious beliefs in order to justify the killings.

A friend of Lori Daybell told investigators that the pair believed people could be taken over by dark spirits that turned them into "zombies" and that the only way to free that person's soul was by killing them. Chad Daybell also ran a publishing company and wrote books that were focused on the biblical "end times" and loosely based on the theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Idaho law allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty if they can show certain "aggravating factors" for crimes like murder or conspiracy to commit murder.

The Fremont and Madison county prosecutors said that in addition to the killings being especially heinous and cruel, Chad Daybell showed utter disregard for human life and demonstrated a propensity for murder. They also said the killings were done for financial gain, likely because the pair collected the children's Social Security survivor benefits and Tammy Daybell's life insurance money.

Death penalty cases are infrequent but not rare in Idaho. There are currently seven men and one woman on Idaho's death row.

Lori Daybell in Idaho Court
Prosecutors in Idaho announced in court filings Thursday that they would be seeking the death penalty for Chad Daybell, who was married to Lori Daybell, in connection to three deaths. This March 6, 2020, file photo shows Lori Vallow Daybell, left, during a hearing in Rexburg, Idaho. John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register via AP