Prosecutor: Chad Daybell Called His Foes 'Zombies'

Idaho man goes on trial for murders of Tammy Daybell, Joshua Vallow, and Tylee Ryan
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 10, 2024 1:18 PM CDT
Prosecutor: Chad Daybell Thought of Foes as 'Zombies'
Chad Daybell sits during a court hearing Aug. 4, 2020, in St. Anthony, Idaho.   (John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register via AP, Pool, File)

In their opening statements Wednesday, prosecutors characterized Chad Daybell as crafting an alternate reality so he could fulfill "his desire for sex, money, and power. When he had a chance at what he considered his rightful destiny, he made sure no person and no law would stand in his way," prosecutor Rob Wood said. Those who opposed him were considered "zombies" or "dark spirits," Wood added, per NBC News. Daybell, 55, is on trial for first-degree murder, insurance fraud, and conspiracy to commit murder and grand theft in connection with the deaths of former wife Tammy Daybell, 7-year-old Joshua "JJ" Vallow, and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan. The children's mother, Lori Vallow Daybell, was sentenced to life without parole for the murders last July.

Prosecutors say the couple justified the three killings by creating a detailed and apocalyptic belief system, part of an elaborate scheme to eliminate any obstacles to their relationship and to obtain money from survivor benefits and life insurance. "The evidence will show that this was a convenient narrative," Wood told jurors, per the AP. "This narrative gave them the pretext to remove people from this world for their own good." Wood said that Chad Daybell described both children as being possessed before they disappeared, and that he repeatedly predicted to friends that Tammy Daybell would soon die.

Defense attorney John Prior gave his opening statement next, with East Idaho News reporting he began by describing Vallow Daybell as a "beautifully stunning woman" and "very sexual person" who "pursued him." Prior said he planned to call a DNA expert who will "say there was no DNA evidence, no hair sample of Chad Daybell on Tylee Ryan or on JJ Vallow" as well as a forensic pathologist who will dispute the characterization of Tammy Daybell's death as a homicide. Some of Chad Daybell's children plan to testify "that their mother was suffering from a number of maladies and she would refuse to see a doctor." Daybell has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and the trial is expected to take 10 weeks. Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty if Daybell is convicted. (The AP recaps the case here.)

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