Chad Daybell sentenced to death for killing wife and girlfriend's 2 children in jury decision

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Chad Daybell was sentenced to death Saturday for the murders of his wife and his girlfriend's two youngest children in Idaho.

The sentence was handed down after an Idaho jury unanimously agreed that imposing the death penalty would be a just resolution to the triple-murder case. The sentence marks the end of a grim investigation that began with a search for two missing children in 2019. The next year their bodies were found buried in Daybell's eastern Idaho yard.

Daybell, wearing a dress shirt and tie, sat with his hands in his lap at the defense table. He showed no emotion when the sentence was announced.

Both Daybell and his new wife, Lori Vallow Daybell, were charged with multiple counts of murder, conspiracy and grand theft in connection with the deaths of Vallow Daybell's two youngest children, 7-year-old Joshua "JJ" Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan. They were also charged with conspiracy and murder for the death of Daybell's first wife, Tammy Daybell.

During a nearly two-month-long trial, prosecutors said Chad Daybell promoted unusual spiritual beliefs including apocalyptic prophecies and tales of possession by evil spirits in order to justify the killings.

Daybell's defense attorney, John Prior, argued during the trial that there wasn't enough evidence to tie Daybell to the killings, and suggested Vallow Daybell's older brother, Alex Cox, was the culprit. Cox died in late 2019 and was never charged, and Vallow Daybell was convicted last year and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

During the sentencing hearing, Prior asked the jurors to judge Daybell on his life before he met Vallow Daybell, describing her as a bomb that blew him off the trajectory of an otherwise wholesome life. But Daybell also declined to offer any mitigating evidence during the sentencing hearing. Mitigating evidence is often used to encourage jurors to have sympathy for a defendant in an effort to show that a life sentence would be more appropriate than capital punishment.

Family members of the victims gave emotional statements to the jurors. JJ Vallow's grandmother Kay Woodcock tearfully described how the 7-year-old would show empathy and compassion to others through soft touches and by frequently asking if those around him were OK. She also said Tylee was a doting big sister, and that it warmed her heart to see them together.

"I can't express just how much I wish for more time to create memories," Woodcock said, beginning to weep.

Vallow Daybell's oldest child, Colby Ryan, described what it was like to lose his entire family. His father died years earlier.

"My three kids will never know the kindness of Tylee's heart or JJ's silly and goofy personality ... The only way I could describe the impact of their lives being lost is like a nuclear bomb dropping," he said. "It's not an overstatement to say that I lost everything."

To impose the death penalty, the jurors had to unanimously find that Daybell met at least one of the "aggravating circumstances" that state law says qualifies someone for capital punishment. They also had to agree that those aggravating factors weren't outweighed by any mitigating factors that might have lessened his culpability or justified a lesser sentence.

Idaho law allows for execution by lethal injection or firing squad, though firing squad executions have never been used in the state.


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