Chad Daybell Should Get Death Penalty in ‘Doomsday’ Killings, Jury Finds

An Idaho jury reached a verdict on Saturday that a man be sentenced to death, two days after he was found guilty of first-degree murder and other charges in the 2019 killings of his first wife and two of his current wife’s children, capping a case that drew scrutiny because of the couple’s “doomsday” religious beliefs.

It took jurors more than a day to deliberate during the special sentencing proceeding in the case against the man, Chad Daybell, 55, in Ada County District Court in Boise, Idaho.

As the clerk read the jury’s decision on Saturday, Mr. Daybell sat expressionless at the defense table.

Judge Steven W. Boyce, of the Seventh Judicial District, had noted after the verdict on Thursday that prosecutors said they would pursue the death penalty.

On Friday, relatives of the victims delivered statements, often struggling for words.

Prosecutors said the death penalty was justified, pointing to aggravating factors. They argued that the crimes were particularly “heinous, atrocious or cruel”; that Mr. Daybell was motivated by the desire for remuneration; and that he continued to represent a danger to society.

Lindsey Blake, a prosecutor, described extreme religious claims by Mr. Daybell of having visions in which he could determine whether someone was “dark” or “possessed,” in which cases “the body had to be destroyed or die.”

What he sought, she contended, was to pursue a new life with his current spouse after collecting life insurance and other payments to be alone on a beach, “unencumbered by earthly obstacles.”

Mr. Daybell’s lawyer, John Prior, asked jurors to consider the rationale behind the original charges and see that his client was accused of espousing religious beliefs and was not motivated by money, nor was he the only suspect linked to the murders.

Even if the jurors believed that he had killed his first wife, Mr. Prior said, “that doesn’t reach the heinous, atrocious conduct” for a death penalty case.

Several relatives told of immeasurable loss, pausing to regain their composure.

“My sister was ripped from our lives,” said Samantha Gwilliam, the sister of Mr. Daybell’s first wife, Tammy Daybell.

She should not have met a violent end, but should have been doting on grandchildren and taking care of her animals and smiling, Ms. Gwilliam added.

“I will grieve for her for the rest of my life, she said. “I speak up for her now because she needs a voice.”

On Thursday, Mr. Daybell remained expressionless as he heard the guilty verdicts for three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft by deception, one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and two counts of insurance fraud.

Prosecutors filed charges in 2021 against Mr. Daybell and his wife, Lori Vallow Daybell, in the deaths of Joshua Vallow, 7, known as J.J.; and Tylee Ryan, 16. Mr. Daybell was also charged with murder in the death of his previous spouse, Tammy Daybell.

Mr. Daybell and Ms. Vallow Daybell, now 50, had pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In May last year, Ms. Vallow Daybell was found guilty of murder in the deaths of her two children and of conspiring to murder her husband’s former wife. She was sentenced in July to three consecutive life terms in prison without parole.

The couple’s religious beliefs drew attention from prosecutors and the public because of their potential role in the case. According to the indictment, the couple “did endorse and teach religious beliefs for the purpose of justifying” the deaths of the children.

One of the prosecutors, Robert H. Wood, said the murders showed an “utter disregard for human life.”

Mr. Prior, the defense lawyer, described Mr. Daybell growing up in a small town in Utah and being married for 29 years, raising five children, before the “trajectory” of his life changed to “chaos” after he met his would-be wife.

“The Lori Vallow bomb being dropped on Chad Daybell’s life,” he added, “changed the path of his life. It’s not where we would be going.”

Relatives of the children and Tammy Daybell recounted the pain they felt and mourned the lost potential of their lives.

Matthew Douglas, Tammy Daybell’s brother, said she was the “emotional heart and glue of our siblings.” Annie Cushing, an aunt, described memories of a surprise hug from J.J. and of Tylee’s sweetness. “This defendant stole all of that,” Ms. Cushing said.

Ms. Vallow Daybell was referred to as the “Doomsday Mom” in headlines and in a Lifetime documentary by that name. Mr. Daybell has written novels with doomsday themes, and both he and Ms. Vallow Daybell were linked to an entity called Preparing a People, which looked to prepare its followers for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, according to its website.

The couple married in 2019, shortly after his wife, Tammy Daybell, was found dead at her home in Idaho. At first, her death was attributed to natural causes, but after Ms. Vallow’s children disappeared, the authorities began an investigation that extended into a re-examination of her death. An autopsy later attributed the cause to asphyxiation.

Tammy Daybell’s death occurred about a month after Mr. Daybell had increased the amount of coverage in a life insurance policy for her.

In February 2020, Ms. Vallow Daybell was arrested in Hawaii after the authorities said that she had not cooperated in the search for her missing children, whose remains were discovered later that year on Mr. Daybell’s property in Idaho. He was arrested and charged with concealing evidence.

Emmett Lindner contributed reporting.

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