Prosecutors described Chad Daybell as someone with a “desire for sex, money and power” and said he labeled people who stood in the way of his dreams as “zombies” and “dark spirits.”

The remarks were made during opening statements Wednesday in Daybell’s triple-murder trial. He and his current wife, Lori Vallow, were charged in connection with the deaths of Daybell’s ex-wife, Tammy Daybell, and Vallow’s children, Joshua ‘JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan.

“You’ll hear in the world Chad and Lori planned for themselves, they identified those who stood in the way of their dream as ‘dark,” Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood said.

“Their spouses, Lori’s own children and anyone who opposed them were labeled sometimes as ‘dark spirits’ or even ‘zombies.’ The evidence will show that it was a convenient narrative that dehumanized people who stood in their way,” Wood added.

Daybell was arrested in June 2020 after police uncovered the remains of  Joshua and Tylee on his property in Fremont County, Idaho.

His trial is expected to last 10 weeks.

Authorities have said they believe Daybell hid his stepchildren’s remains sometime between September 2019 and June 2020. A formal search for Joshua, 7, and Tylee, 16, began in November 2019 after concerned family members contacted authorities because they had not seen or spoken to the children, the Rexburg Police Department said.

Court documents later revealed that Joshua’s remains had been buried in a pet cemetery and Tylee had been dismembered and burned in a fire pit. 

Joshua Vallow and Tylee Ryan.Fremont County Sheriff’s Office

Daybell Vallow were indicted in 2021 on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft by deception.

They were also charged with insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in connection with the 2019 death of Daybell’s ex-wife, Tammy Daybell. In addition, Daybell was charged with first-degree murder in her death.

Daybell has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty.

Read more coverage related to the trial

Authorities had accused Daybell and Vallow of failing to cooperate with the investigation into the children’s disappearance and lying to officers about their whereabouts. They initially told officers that Joshua, who was adopted and had special needs, was in Arizona with a family friend but police determined that was not true.

The couple later abruptly left Rexburg. They were found in Hawaii in January 2020, when Vallow was taken into custody.

As police continued their investigation into the children, several mysterious deaths connected to the couple began to surface.

On July 11, 2019, Vallow’s fourth husband, Charles Vallow, was shot and killed by her brother, Alex Cox, a few months after he filed for divorce. Lori Vallow and her brother were questioned by police at the time and claimed self-defense.

A grand jury in Arizona, where Lori and Charles Vallow lived, charged her with conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree nearly two years after his death. Cox was never charged. He died in 2019 from a pulmonary embolism, a condition that causes one or more arteries in the lungs to become blocked by a blood clot.

In October 2019, a few months after Charles Vallow died, Tammy Daybell was found dead as a result of what was believed to be natural causes at the time. Investigators later exhumed her body and conducted an autopsy that ruled it a homicide.

Daybell and Lori Vallow married just two weeks after Tammy’s funeral, NBC affiliate KSL of Salt Lake City reported.

Prosecutors have said they believe Daybell, a self-published author of more than two dozen books about near-death and doomsday events, and Vallow became obsessed with apocalyptic beliefs that led them to commit the murders.


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