An Idaho man has pled not guilty to murdering his first wife and his two step-children from his second marriage, exactly one year after the children’s bodies were found buried in his backyard.
Chad Daybell, 52, pled not guilty Wednesday in a Freemont County Court to all charges related to the 2019 deaths of JJ Vallow, 7; Tylee Ryan, 17; and his ex-wife, Tammy Daybell.
His pleas came one day after his wife, Lori Vallow-Daybell — the mother of the two deceased children — was committed to a psychiatric facility by a judge for 90 days in hopes of making her competent to stand trial. Late last month, the court deemed her unfit to stand trial for the murder of her children, for which she also faces charges.
Daybell did not have any obvious emotional reaction as he entered his pleas. He faces life imprisonment or capital punishment if convicted of the more serious charges.
He was arrested shortly after the children’s bodies were discovered on his Freemont County property on June 9, 2020, ending a roughly eight-month search involving authorities in several states.
The children’s grandmother, Kay Woodcock, was present in the courtroom during Daybell’s hearing and expressed disappointment over Daybell’s pleas.
“He’s a liar,” she told East Idaho News. “How do you have two kids in your backyard and you don’t know anything about it?”
Daybell had married the children’s mother weeks after the mysterious death of his first wife in October 2019. Just as authorities began investigating the children’s whereabouts, the couple moved to Hawaii, where Vallow-Daybell was eventually arrested on charges related to her children’s disappearance.
Prosecutors have accused the couple of justifying the murders through their religious beliefs. It was alleged that the couple believed that Tammy Daybell had been possessed by a spirit. A friend of Vallow-Daybell has also claimed that she believed her children had turned into zombies and that the only way to rid a person of a dark spirit was by killing them.
Daybell is a Christian doomsday author who has written several books about the end of the world and the Christian belief in Christ’s return to Earth.