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Prosecution, defense present final arguments to jury in Lori Vallow murder trial

Prosecutors once again argued to jurors that this trial was about Vallow’s quest for “money, power and sex." Her defense team, meanwhile, offered an image of a loving mom who got swept up with the wrong man.

BOISE, Idaho (CN) — Both sides of the Lori Vallow murder trial made their final push to jurors on Thursday after five weeks of hearings, testimony from dozens of witnesses and numerous grisly photos of her two murdered children.

With both legal teams finished, the case now rests in the hands of 12 jurors, who went into deliberations on Thursday afternoon.

By press time on Thursday, the jury had not yet reached its verdict.

Prosecutor Rob Wood kickstarted the day by arguing the case was about “money, power, and sex," echoing a phrase that began the state’s opening statements to the jury over a month ago.  

Wood spent most of his time before the jury detailing the saga that prosecutors say culminated in Vallow killing her 17-year-old daughter Tylee Ryan, her adopted 7-year-old son Joshua Jaxon "J. J." Vallow and her husband’s late wife, Tammy Daybell.

Lori did so, prosecutors allege, with the help of her husband Chad Daybell and now-dead brother Alex Cox.

Lori’s decision to uproot her family from Arizona and move to Rexburg, Idaho, was the “catalyst” of the murders, Wood said. Rexburg, prosecutors say, was a place where nobody knew the family — and where Lori could plan and carry out the murders.

Prosecutors say Lori saw her children and Tammy as “obstacles in her path” towards what she wanted: Chad all to herself, plus Social Security money from the children.

Prosecutors say Lori and Chad were having an affair while Chad was still married to Tammy — and that Lori was searching for wedding dresses and rings around the day Tammy died. The defense team does not dispute these facts.

Once Tammy and Lori's children were dead, Wood said she continued to cash their Social Security checks and never reported her children missing. Shortly after, Lori was pictured dancing and laughing on a beach in Hawaii where she married Chad — all while a massive search was underway for her children.

Text messages between the lovebirds were a crucial part of Wood’s plea to the jury.  Wood spoke of one message where Chad was telling Lori about “shooting a racoon” one afternoon and burying it in his pet cemetery. Raccoons are nocturnal creatures.

Ryan, her 17-year-old daughter, was later found in that same pet cemetery. She had been burned, and much of her remains had been placed in a bucket on top of her skull.

In another text exchange shown to the jury, Lori asked Chad what the “death percentages” of her children were. She responded with disappointment when Chad said they were not yet at zero.

She asked him if “there was a plan to take care of the children." When Chad confirmed there was, she used sex and expressions of “feeling hot” for him as a reward, according to prosecutors.

Wood ended the state’s argument by saying justice was needed for the victims of Lori's carnage.

“What does justice for these victims require? It requires a conviction on every count,” Wood said. “You must convict her."

Defense attorney Jim Archibald offered a much different perspective on his client. He described Lori as a woman who loved her children, even going so far as to adopt seven-year-old J. J., whom he said she “loved and cared for.”

Lori never spoke about death ratings or evil spirits until she met Chad, a “nutty” doomsday author who “can’t sell enough stupid books about the end of the world," Archibald said.

Chad used fantastical pickup-lines — including saying they were married in a past life and best friends with Jesus — to welcome Lori into his apocalyptic worldview, Archibald argued. It was only after she met and had an affair with Chad, he said, that people started to die.

Archibald also pushed back arguments by the state that Lori moved to Rexburg with the intent to kill her children.

Right before the children went missing, Lori enrolled them in school, included their names on her rental agreement and even hired a babysitter to watch J.J., Archibald said. None of the actions line up with a woman planning to kill her kids, he argued — and any lies she told in the process were only to protect Chad.

As for Tammy, Archibald questioned if she was even murdered. He said Tammy was taking medications that, if taken over the long-term, could cause seizures that might have in turn caused her death. Prosecutors called in witnesses to testify that Tammy died by asphyxiation.

Finding Lori guilty would not bring her kids back, and jurors “can’t be concerned about that," Archibald concluded. Instead, he said, they should focus on the state not meeting its burden to show Lori’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

After Archibald wrapped, Wood returned to the jury to offer a brief rebuttal.

“Lori’s behavior shows that she’s a killer," he said. "She’s not a mom trying to care for her children."

"You must convict her," he stressed again.

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Categories / Criminal, Trials

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