BOISE, Idaho (CN) — The murder trial for the Idaho mother accused of killing two of her youngest children and her husband’s late wife officially began on Monday with impassioned opening statements from prosecutors who say the “doomsday mom” used religious convictions to kill three people.
Proceedings in what could be a two-month long trial started with Judge Steven Boyce presenting the jury with a summary of the charges brought against Lori Vallow by Idaho prosecutors. Vallow is being accused of murdering her 17-year-old daughter Tylee Ryan, adopted 7-year-old son JJ Vallow, and her husband’s former wife Tammy Daybell. The myriad of charges range from murder to conspiracy to commit murder, as well as a grand theft charge stemming from social security benefits from her daughter.
Each charge was read in detail to Lori Vallow before opening arguments commenced. Seated between her two defense attorneys, Jim Archibald and John Thomas, and dressed in a black and white suit, Vallow remained silent during the day's proceedings.
Vallow’s husband Chad Daybell is also being charged in connection with the murders of Vallow’s children, but is being tried separately from his wife. His trial date has not yet been set.
The floor was then turned over to prosecutors who began their case against Vallow by characterizing her as a mother who was willing to "remove any obstacle" in her way to get what she wanted — including her own children.
“Money, power, and sex is what this case is about,” Fremont County prosecuting attorney Lindsey Blake told the jury during her opening arguments. “Tylee had money, Lori wanted it, Tylee’s gone. The defendant didn’t want to have to take care of JJ anymore, JJ had money, JJ is gone. . . Tammy had a life insurance policy and Lori wanted Chad all to herself. Tammy’s gone.”
Prosecutors presented the jury with photo evidence of the charred remains of Tylee Ryan and JJ that were found buried on Chad Daybell’s Idaho property. Tylee’s remains were described as a “mass of bone and tissue” while JJ’s were shown to be wrapped in black plastic and tape. A photo was also shown of JJ’s hands bound by duct tape after his death before cutting to a photo of Lori and Chad holding hands on the beach in Hawaii. They also found JJ’s DNA on a pick axe and shovel at Daybell’s property.
Lori and Chad fled to Hawaii to get married in November 2019 shortly after Tammy died and while a massive search for the children was underway. Prosecutors described the pair as “dancing and celebrating” while they knew that the two children were cold in the ground.
Daybell and Vallow were shown to have bonded very quickly over similar religious beliefs when they first met and were both married to other people, believing that they were together in a previous life, according to prosecutors. Lori became very interested in a religious belief system where she felt she could rate people on a spiritual scale of light and dark. Vallow, according to prosecutors, became interested in a casting system where they would try to expel evil spirits from people and that, if their casting ritual did not work, a person could become a “zombie.” Once that happened, the only remedy was for the person’s body to be destroyed.
Prosecutors said Lori believed that both her daughter and son were possessed by a “dark” spirit that Vallow reportedly spoke about on numerous occasions. But while she spoke at length about the “dark” spirits of her children, after both Tylee and JJ went missing, prosecutors said Vallow did not send any messages or file any kind of missing person’s report.