Prosecutors in Idaho on Thursday announced their intention to seek the death penalty against Chad Daybell, who is accused of killing his two stepchildren who went missing and were found dead in Idaho last year.
Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell, who is the mother of Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 17, are charged in the murder of her two children. Chad Daybell is also charged with the murder of his former wife, Tammy Daybell, 49, who died under “suspicious circumstances” in 2019.
Prosecutors Lindsay Blake and Rob Wood said they conferred with immediate family members of the victims, but that the ultimate decision to seek the death penalty rests with the state. They said the decision only applies to Chad Daybell.
“[W]e determined that the nature and magnitude of these crimes warrant the possibility of the highest possible punishment,” they said in a statement.
Chad Daybell’s attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY on Thursday.
The prosecutors argue in the court filing that Chad Daybell’s actions warrant the death penalty because they were “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel,” committed for “renumeration” and showed disregard for human life. They also argued that Chad Daybell poses a continued threat to society.
The children’s bodies were found in June 2020, on Chad Daybell’s property, police said. Lori Vallow Daybell had been arrested in February of that year in connection with their disappearance, and Chad Daybell was arrested in June.
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Authorities grew suspicious of Chad Daybell when he remarried just two weeks after his former wife’s death, which was initially deemed due to natural causes. Her body was later exhumed and an autopsy was performed in December 2019.
Police first announced the children were missing in December 2019, after JJ’s grandmother said she hadn’t heard from him in months. Lori Vallow Daybell allegedly told police that JJ was in Arizona when they performed a welfare check. The couple fled to Hawaii at the time.
Tylee was last seen Sept. 8 in Yellowstone National Parks as photos show her with JJ, Lori Vallow Daybell and Vallow’s brother, Alex Cox.
Lori Vallow Daybell is also facing charges in Arizona, where her brother allegedly killed her former husband, Charles Vallow. Her brother pled self-defense and died in 2019.
A friend of Lori Vallow Daybell told authorities that the couple believed her children had become “zombies,” and alleged that they were involved in apocalyptic, cult-like religious beliefs.