Chad Daybell pleads not guilty to murder charges, Lori Vallow committed to mental health facility

A woman charged with conspiring with her new husband to kill her two children has been committed to a mental health facility for treatment, and her husband has pleaded not guilty to the crimes.

Chad Daybell pleaded not guilty in an Idaho courtroom on June 9 to murder charges in connection to the deaths of his wife's children and his ex-wife.

Daybell entered his plea Wednesday morning, less than 24 hours after 7th District Judge Steven Boyce signed the mental commitment order for Lori Vallow Daybell.

The couple is at the center of a grim saga involving bizarre doomsday beliefs and a months-long search for two missing children who were later found buried in an eastern Idaho yard. 

Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell were each indicted by a grand jury last month on charges of conspiracy, murder and grand theft in connection with the deaths of Lori Daybell's two youngest children, 7-year-old Joshua "JJ" Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan.

Chad Daybell was also charged with one count of murder and insurance fraud in connection with the death of his late wife, Tammy Daybell, just weeks before his marriage to the co-defendant.

He pleaded not guilty to all those charges, plus charges related to the destruction or concealment of the children's bodies.

Wednesday marks one year since authorities discovered the remains of JJ and Tylee on Daybell's Idaho property. Daybell was then arrested.

JJ Vallow's grandmother, Kay Woodcock, attended the June 9 hearing. She said Chad Daybell's plea was a lie.

"I think he should just give it up," she told after the hearing. "How do you have two kids in your backyard and you don't know anything about it? He's a liar."

"He's gonna say what he's gonna say and lie about it from the beginning. They lied about it, so there's nothing you can do about it," said Colby Ryan, older brother of JJ and Tylee.

The judge signed an order Tuesday afternoon ordering Lori Vallow Daybell to be committed to a mental health care facility for treatment for up to three moths, in hopes of making her competent to stand trial. Idaho state law doesn't allow for an insanity defense to criminal charges. But after a psychological assessment, the court found Lori Vallow Daybell wasn't able to assist in her own defense or make informed decisions about her mental health treatment.

"Most cases, like 75% of cases where people are found incompetent to stand trial are resolved or restored back to competency within six months," said Dr. Tess Neal, a clinical and forensic psychologist who is also an assistant professor at Arizona State University.

Dr. Neal says there are structured ways to assess competency.

"Nothing is fool proof, but the field is fairly good and develop some mechanisms to tease apart people who are truly ill from people who are faking ill," said Dr. Neal.

In the indictment, the Daybells are accused of espousing strange religious beliefs to encourage or justify the killings. Dr. Neal does not know the specifics of Vallow's assessment, but we asked how religious beliefs could factor into competency.

"Many times, psychosis can involve religious-related delusions, or fixed false beliefs can involve religious-related hallucinations or perceiving things that aren't there: voices, sounds, smells and so forth," said Dr. Neal.

The complex case began in 2018, according to the indictment, when Chad and Lori Daybell -- both still married to other people -- began espousing their apocalyptical system of religious belief. Lori Daybell's then-husband, Charles Vallow, eventually decided to seek a divorce. He wrote in court documents that his wife believed she had become a god-like figure responsible for ushering in the end times.

The two were still married but estranged in the summer of 2019 when Lori Daybell's brother Alex Cox shot Charles Vallow, in suburban Phoenix.

Cox asserted the shooting was in self-defense, and he was never charged. Cox later died of an apparent blood clot in his lung.

Shortly after Charles Vallow's death, Lori Daybell -- then still Lori Vallow -- and her children moved to Idaho, where Chad Daybell lived. He ran a small publishing company, releasing doomsday-focused fiction books loosely based on the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He also recorded podcasts about preparing for the apocalypse, and friends said he claimed to be able to receive visions from "beyond the veil."

At the time, Chad Daybell was married to Tammy Daybell, a fit 49-year-old school librarian who helped him run the publishing company. She died in October of 2019. Her obituary said she died in her sleep of natural causes.

Authorities grew suspicious when Chad Daybell remarried just two weeks later, and they had Tammy Daybell's body exhumed in Utah in December. The results of that autopsy have not been released.

Police began searching for Tylee and JJ in November after relatives raised concerns.

Officials say the Daybells lied to investigators about their whereabouts before quietly leaving Idaho. They were found in Hawaii months later, without the children. The children's bodies were eventually found buried in a "pet cemetery" on Chad Daybell's eastern Idaho property.

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