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Idaho mom Lori Vallow convicted of murdering her children and husband’s ex

Lori Vallow stood emotionless and quiet as a jury pronounced her guilty after just seven hours of deliberations.

BOISE, Idaho (CN) — After over three years of hearings, trial delays and questions over her competency to stand trial, Lori Vallow has been convicted of murder, conspiracy and grand theft in the deaths of her two youngest children and husband’s previous wife.

The conviction by a jury in a Boise courtroom Friday afternoon came after just seven hours of deliberations. Lori, dressed in all black and flanked by her two defense attorneys, stood silently with her arms folded in front of her as she listened to the verdict.

Larry Woodcock, JJ's grandfather, left the courtroom after the verdict and led the awaiting crowd in singing a few lines from Queen's "We Will Rock You," JJ's favorite song. He told reporters this was exactly the verdict he and his wife Kay were looking for, but says the story is still far from over and plans to attend Lori's sentencing.

"This isn't the end," he said. "Ninety days from today we will be in Fremont County. And I will say, 'Why, Lori? Why' For power, sex and greed? For what?

"Love always wins," he told the crowd shortly before leaving.

The guilty verdict punctuates a saga rife with religious ideals of the end of the world, rating systems for “light and dark spirits” and an affair between two married adults whose spouses died under mysterious circumstances. The story found audiences both local and across the country, and was surrounded by such a media frenzy that the two sides spent a week poring over 2,000 potential jurors to find just a handful that knew little about the case.

The case began in 2019, when law enforcement began to investigate reports that Vallow’s children, 17-year-old daughter Tylee Ryan and adopted 7-year-old son JJ Vallow, had not been seen by family in weeks but were not reported missing by their mother. Police found Lori and her-now husband Chad Daybell in Hawaii, where they had just gotten married while a search was underway for their children — and right after Chad’s wife Tammy had died.

During trial, testimony by investigators revealed that police used massive amounts of cellphone and GPS data to unravel the mystery of Tylee and JJ’s disappearance.

They uncovered text messages between Lori and Chad, an author of several books prophesizing the end of the world who had met Lori the year prior, discussing things about the children that troubled police. Conversations about what kind of “light or dark spirits” that had possessed Tylee and JJ, plans to “take care of the children” and an odd message from Chad to Lori one afternoon that he had shot a racoon and buried it in their pet cemetery.

These exchanges, coupled with GPS data, brought police to Chad’s east Idaho property where they found Tylee burned and buried in a bucket in the pet cemetery mentioned in the messages. JJ was also buried on the property, bound in duct tape with a plastic bag over his head and still wearing the pajamas he was last seen in. A strand of Lori’s hair was recovered from the duct tape around JJ and DNA from Tylee was found on a nearby pickaxe.

According to police testimony, the search led police to investigate the death of Tammy as well. While Tammy’s death was first thought to be from natural causes after Chad refused an autopsy of his wife, police said records indicated Chad had taken out an larger life insurance policy on Tammy. He also told Lori while they were having an affair that Tammy was not going to be here much longer.

Police conducted an autopsy of Tammy and found she had died from asphyxiation.

Lori also saw her previous husband die suddenly. Charles Vallow, who adopted JJ with Lori, was shot and killed by Lori’s brother Alex Cox after a reported altercation. Cox was never charged with the shooting and later died of natural causes in December 2019, just three months before Lori’s arrest.

Chad also faces charges in connection to the murders, but requested his trial be separate from his wife’s and waived his right to a speedy trial. A trial date has not been set, and Chad’s attorney John Prior was spotted at Lori’s hearings.

Prosecutors Rob Wood and Lindsey Blake released a statement after the verdict celebrating the decision and thanking the jury for their hard work, but said the pending case against Chad prevents them from saying more.

"We are very pleased with the jury’s verdict, and we want to thank them, as well as the alternates, for their service over last six weeks during this trial," the statement said. "Given the pending case against the co-defendant, we are unable to conduct any additional interviews or discuss further details of this matter. We want to assure each of you that we remain committed to pursuing justice for Tylee Ryan, JJ Vallow and Tammy Daybell."

Lori's defense team did not issue a statement on the verdict by press time Friday afternoon.

The conviction came after the defense team declined to present any evidence. A trial that was set to last for 10 weeks was cut short at week five when her legal team said the state did not do enough to meet their burden of proof and did not feel the need to present their own evidence. Lori also declined to testify.

With the jury trial complete, Lori’s next legal chapter will be sentencing. With the death penalty taken off the table before trial commenced, Judge Steven Boyce is set to begin sentencing proceedings within the next few months. An exact date has not been set.

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Categories / Criminal, Trials

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