Chad Daybell case advances to District Court after 2-day preliminary hearing
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ST. ANTHONY — The case against Chad Daybell has been bound over to District Court and he is scheduled to go before Judge Steven Boyce for an arraignment on Friday, Aug. 21.
After a two-day preliminary hearing in Fremont County, Magistrate Judge Faren Eddins determined there is sufficient cause that Daybell likely committed two felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence, and two felony counts of destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence.
Over a dozen witnesses were called Monday and Tuesday, including FBI agents, Rexburg and Fremont County detectives, the BYU-Idaho Dean of Student and two of Daybell’s close friends. They received questions from Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Spencer Rammell, special prosecutors in the case, before being cross-examined by John Prior, Daybell’s attorney.
Daybell showed little emotion during the hours of testimony but Larry and Kay Woodcock, the grandparents of Joshua “JJ” Vallow, were visibly upset as investigators described gruesome details about the condition of their grandson when he was found buried with his sister, Tylee Ryan, on Daybell’s property.
Once Daybell is arraigned in District Court, a jury trial will eventually be scheduled. His wife, Lori Daybell, is scheduled for a preliminary hearing in Fremont County on Monday, Aug. 10. She faces two felony charges of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence and remains in the Madison County
Jail on $1 million bail.
Below is an archive of what each witness said throughout the day. You can watch the entire here on the EastIdahoNews.com YouTube channel here.
3:50 p.m. Eddins is back from a 10 minute recess. He says the reason preliminary hearings are held is to determine probable cause. Eddins says after reviewing all of the testimony, exhibits and arguments, Wood has met its burden of probable cause. Eddins says there is probable or sufficient cause that Daybell committed the crimes he’s accused of. Daybell’s case is now bound over to District Court and he will go before Judge Steven Boyce on Aug. 21 for an arraignment.
3:35 p.m. Wood says the state has met its burden of probable cause on all four counts facing Chad Daybell and he asks Eddins to bound the court over to District Court. Prior is now making his closing arguments and says there is no indication of when the acts were committed. Prior says the prosecution isn’t “even close” on the conspiracy charges. Prior is asking the court to dismiss the charges and says the prosecution has not met its burden. Eddins calls for a recess and says he will make a ruling momentarily on the record orally.
3:30 p.m. Wood says based on the state of bodies of JJ Valow and Tylee Ryan, they were victims of a homicide. Wood says based on the evidence presented, both Chad and Lori were somehow involved. The bodies were concealed and found on Chad Daybell’s property. Alex Cox became Chad’s brother-in-law two months later when Chad and Lori were married.
3:25 p.m. Wood says he has no further witnesses. Prior has no witnesses. We are now entering closing arguments. Wood says if the court finds an offense has been committed, the court must bind the case over to district court. Wood is now summarizing the timeline and witness testimony.
FBI EMPLOYEE BENJAMIN DEAN
3:20 p.m. Dean says between Chad and Tammy, from July 29 until Oct. 18, the lengthiest SMS message was about the raccoon on Sept. 9. Dean studied multimedia messages from July 31 – Oct. 25, 2019. Facebook messages were not on the phone. Prior has no further questions and Dean leaves the witness stand.
3:15 p.m. Back from recess. Benjamin Dean of the FBI remains on the stand. Prior is now asking him questions about the text messages on Tammy’s phone. After Oct. 18, there were no outgoing messages from her phone. Tammy died Oct. 19. Calls did occasionally come in after Tammy’s death until the FBI seized her phone.
2:35 p.m. Dean now reading the text message exchange between Chad and Tammy on Sept. 9 about Chad saying he shot a raccoon on the property. More on the messages here. Dean says the first message Chad sent to Tammy was unusual as most of the messages between the two were very short. Dean says this was the first message from Chad to Tammy where Chad explained something about his day that was so detailed. Dean also noticed the date was Sept. 9 – the same timeframe that the FBI had inquired the public for videos and photos from Yellowstone. Dean also knew Tylee Ryan was last seen alive the day before – Sept. 8. After reviewing the messages, Dean relayed the information to the case agents. Judge calls for a recess. Court will resume at 2:50 p.m.
2:30 p.m. Dean says on Sept. 9, Tammy’s phone had text messages from her husband, Chad Daybell. There were messages between the two of them from the past including statements of affection like, “I love you,” and “Can’t sleep without you.”
2:25 p.m. Dean explains how he normally analyzes technological evidence. He says he reviewed a cell phone belonging to Tammy Daybell. He knows this because the device username was listed as Tammy, the phone number matched her number, there were incoming messages with the name Tammy and outgoing messages signing off with Tammy’s name. There were direct messages with members of the Daybell family and all the members in the group messages had contact names stored in the device.
2:20 p.m. Dean says in March, he began analyzing tips coming into the FBI after the agency asked the public to send information if they were at Yellowstone National Park in Sept. 2019 – the last time Tylee Ryan was seen alive. Dean also received a hard drive and a thumb drive that were inside Chad Daybell’s home. He completed the analysis on the devices in late May. He also reviewed two Bluray discs retrieved from Daybell’s home in January.
2:15 p.m. Spencer Rammell calls Benjamin Dean to the stand. Dean has worked for the FBI for six years and is currently an intelligence analyst. He supports active cases but his main job is to analyze information and make assessments about specific threats.
FBI EMPLOYEE GARY LYU
2:10 p.m. Lyu says he “parsed” data from the phone – which is converting data into information that can be read by humans. Rammell has no further questions. Prior asks the name of a program Lyu uses and is nothing further from this witness.
2:05 p.m. Lyu describing a phone with a purple case and glitter that the FBI took possession of. The phone was locked so Lyu requested the FBI’s unlocking service so he could examine the phone. He sent the phone to FBI headquarters and it was returned to him on March 12.
2:00 p.m. Lyu continues to describe the policies of tracking evidence once it has been admitted to the FBI. He took possession on Jan. 16, 2020 of an LG phone that was inside Chad Daybell’s home.
1:55 p.m. Gary Lyu is now called to the stand. He has worked with the FBI for over four years. He is a forensics examiner and works in the Intermountain West Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory. Rammell asks Lyu to describe the process of forensics investigations – from intaking the items, assigning specimen IDs to each item and a chain of custody report on each item.
FREMONT COUNTY DET. BRUCE MATTINGLY
1:50 p.m. Mattingly is asked about executing the search warrant at Chad Daybell’s home. He is talking about processing evidence and log sheets. Mattingly drove electronic evidence from Daybell’s home to the FBI office in Salt Lake City. There are no further questions from Rammell or Prior.
FREMONT COUNTY LT. JOE POWELL
1:45 p.m. Rammell asks Lt. Joe Powell a few questions about handling evidence and Powell is dismissed. Prior has no questions for Powell. Fremont County Det. Bruce Mattingly is now called to the stand.
FBI SPECIAL AGENT STEVE DANIELS
1:45 p.m. Prior has no further questions for Daniels. The witness is excused and the witness cubicle is being sanitized. The next witness will be Fremont County Lt. Joe Powell and Madison County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Spencer Rammell will be asking questions.
1:40 p.m. Prior asking Daniels to point out the pet cemetery on an aerial photo of Daybell’s property. Daniels says there was ash inside and outside the fire pit area. Daniels says burial site #1 was approximately 1.5 feet deep and at the pet cemetery (burial site #2), the depth was 2 feet deep.
1:35 p.m. Daniels says line searches were conducted and five cadaver dogs searched the entire property. A line search is where crews are in a line looking at the ground going back and forth – looking for any indications of a clandestine grave. Daniels says a clandestine grave is an instance where somebody is trying to hide human remains in a grave.
1:30 p.m. Prior asking questions about the pet cemetery and Daniels says within the area, there were 2-3 potential graves. Daniels says the entire property was not dug up – but crews focused on burial sites #1 and #2.
1:25 p.m. Daniels is back on the stand and Prior is cross-examining him. Prior asking procedural questions about processing the crime scene and the pet cemetery.
12:00 noon Daniels says this was not the first time he was at the Daybell home. He visited Jan. 3 while assisting the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office with a search warrant and was the team leader. Photos of cell phones seized from the home are admitted into the record. Wood says he has no further questions and court takes a lunch break. The hearing will resume at 1:20 p.m.
11:55 a.m. Daniels say the excavation resumed the next day – June 10. At burial site #2, Daniels says a “mass of dismembered human remains” were found. They were partially burned and Daniels says it was initially hard to recognize what his team was dealing with. At the bottom of the mass, crews found a melted green bucket and to the side of a bucket was a skull. To the side of the skull, the team found a jawbone with teeth. The team tried to lift the remains out of the burial site but the mass fell apart. All the pieces were placed in a body bag and the anthropologist and coroner did an “inventory” of the pieces they had.
11:50 a.m. While the backhoe is digging, two vertebrae are found. The anthropologist is unable to determine if the bones are human or animal. The backhoe stops digging and Daniels says he smelled the remains of a decomposing human. The search continues and crews discover a possible pelvic piece of bone. At this point, Daniels knew human remains had been found and crews stopped digging for the day. This became began burial site #2. The pieces that were recovered appeared to be burned and some were pink tissue. Dismembered pieces were put in a body bag, sealed up by the coroner and removed from the scene. All human remains from day one were taken.
11:45 a.m. Daniels says an anthropologist was on scene to help determine the difference between animal and human bones. Daniels is now being asked about the pet cemetery area and the exvacation efforts at the site. Crews removed the first area of vegetation and eventually found two sets of animal remains. After the animal remains were found and moved to the side, a backhoe was brought in and it excavated the 10×10 foot area. It dug approximately two feet down into the ground.
11:40 a.m. Daniels say a white plastic bag was underneath the black plastic bag. He made a cut with a razor blade into the white bag and that’s when “the possible human hair” started coming out on his hands. At that point, Daniels determined it was human remains. The team continued the excavation of the grave and eventually, the entire body was uncovered that was wrapped in this black plastic bag with “a lot of duct tape intermingled.”
11:35 a.m. Daniels says a patch of vegetation was removed from the land and then large stones were discovered. The three stones were taken away and crews then discovered wood boards that were placed on the gravesite. Photographs and scans were taken during the entire process. The next significant thing that was uncovered is a black plastic garbage bag, according to Daniels. He removed dirt around the oval-shaped object and the plastic bag was tightly wrapped against “the shape.” Daniels says it felt like the shape of a skull and he took a razor blade and made a cut in the black plastic.
11:30 a.m. Wood admits a photo into the record showing the clandestine grave area near the pond. They refer to this as burial site #1. Daniels and his team began processing the area with special equipment, including a scanner and total station to take measurements. Daniels says the gravesite is processed layer-by-layer as the team exvacates down into the gravesite. The area was then excavated layer-by-layer.
11:25 a.m. Daniels says they find a dog statue in the backyard and possible graves near the statue. Daniels believes this is the pet cemetery. FBI, Fremont County Sheriff’s Office and Rexburg Police officers begin searching the property – including the pond area. A clandestine grave is found near the pond.
11:20 a.m. Wood has presented an aerial image of Daybell’s property for Daniels to describe the scene. Daniels is talking about the fire pit – the number one priority going in. Based on a text message, Daniels says they were aware of the pet cemetery but they didn’t know where it was on the property. So their job was to try and locate it. Daniels says the photographer went to the “priority” areas first and Evidence Response Team members then went over.
11:15 a.m. Approximately one week before they searched Daybell’s property, Daniels say they came up with a strategy to execute the search. On June 9, early in the morning, Daniels and his team arrived. Every member of the team had an assignment and a crime scene log was established. A photographer was on-site and “priority areas” were designated.
11:10 a.m. Willmore is no longer on the stand and FBI Special Agent Steve Daniels is called as a witness. Daniels is a senior team leader for the Evidence Response Team out of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has worked for the FBI for approximately 23 years. He is describing some of his training and experience.
11:05 a.m. Recess is over. Phone call between Chad and Lori is played again from the beginning. This was recorded as police were searching Chad’s property and the remains of the children were found. Chad says to Lori, “They’re searching the property.” Lori says, “The house right now?” He says yes, and then says, “Mark Means will be talking to you.” Means is her attorney. Chad says they are “out on the property” and Lori asks if they are seizing stuff. Chad says they are searching and have a search warrant. He says “we’ll see what transpires” and Lori asks Chad what she can do for him. Chad responds, “I’m feeling pretty calm. I would call Mark (her attorney) though and talk with him.” Chad says he spoke with Mark and then says, “I love you so much.” She asks Chad if she should try to call him later and he says, “I don’t know.” Chad says, “I love you and we’ll talk soon.” Lori says, “I love you baby” and the call ends.
10:45 a.m. Phone call between Chad and Lori Daybell on June 9 now being played. Chad says to Lori, “They’re searching the property.” Lori says, “The house right now?” He says yes, and then says, “Mark Means will be talking to you.” Means is her attorney. Chad says they are “out on the property” and Lori asks if they are seizing stuff. Chad says they are searching and have a search warrant. They both sound sad and somber. Judge asks for a short recess to try and fix the audio issue.
10:40 a.m. Willmore explaining how the Telmate system works and that all calls are recorded. Willmore says he accessed calls made by Lori Vallow for the prosecutor’s office and he listened to the calls. Willmore talking about a phone call made by Lori Vallow to Chad Daybell on June 9 around 11 a.m. This was the same day police were at Daybell’s house.
10:35 a.m. The next witness is Madison County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jared Willmore. Deputy prosecutor Rammell is asking questions. Willmore has worked 17 years for the MCSO and he is the lieutenant over the jail. He oversees the Telmate phone system that allows inmates to speak with their family members.
10:30 a.m. Prior has no further questions. Wood has some follow-up questions. He asks David to clarify that on Sept. 22, he did a podcast with Melanie and Lori and JJ was not there. David says that is correct but he saw JJ later that night when Alex came to put the child to bed in Lori’s room.
10:25 a.m. Prior asking how well David knew Alex Cox. David says he did not know him very well. They met at Lori Vallow’s home when they met in August in Arizona and Alex was at Lori’s home in Rexburg when they met in the fall. He was a fun guy with a sense of humor – didn’t take anything real serious. Prior asks David he has ever had any problems understanding conversations. David says sometimes but he asks for clarification.
10:20 a.m. David recalls a meeting with Lori and Melanie at a piece of property near Chad’s home when Chad showed up with a realtor. The met for around 30 minutes. David now describing doing the podcast with Lori and Melanie. At Lori’s house, David says Melanie was staying in Tylee’s room and he was staying in JJ’s. Prior asks David if Melanie has any hearing or auditory processing disorders but Wood objects to the question so David cannot answer.
10:15 a.m. David Warwick recalls the night of Sept. 22. He says Alex Cox brought JJ into Lori’s house “later in the night.” Chad Daybell was not there. On the morning of Sept. 23, David says he woke up to get ready to go home. He went downstairs to say goodbye to everyone. Melanie Gibb and Lori Vallow were there but JJ was not. David says Lori told him JJ was being a zombie, climbed up on the cabinets and fridge, knocked down a picture of Christ and then climbed up to the top of the cabinets. David asked to see JJ and Lori said he was “out of control” and Alex had come to get him.
10:10 a.m. Court recess is over and David Warwick is called to the stand. Rob Wood asks David how long he has known Chad Daybell. David says approximately five years. David says he met Lori Vallow Daybell in August 2019. Chad Daybell was there. David says he has never met Tylee Ryan but he met JJ Vallow on Sept. 21, 2019 at Lori’s townhome in Rexburg. David says he stayed at Lori’s house while he was attending a conference. He arrived Friday night around 7:30 p.m. David says he saw Chad three times over the weekend.
9:55 a.m. Prior asking about Chad Daybell’s books. He asks if David Warwick is an author. Melanie says that’s incorrect. Prior says he has no further questions. Wood asks for a 5 minute recess.
9:50 a.m. Prior asking Melanie about the places where Lori Vallow has lived and when/if Chad has lived with her at different locations. Prior suggests Alex had a habit of following Lori wherever she went. Prior asking about King Noah – an evil leader in the Book of Mormon referenced on the phone call between Lori Vallow and Melanie Gibb. He’s also asking questions about Alma, a Book of Mormon prophet.
9:45 a.m. Prior asks Melanie about the days she and David Warwick were in Rexburg last fall. On Sept. 22, she says they went with Chad to a piece of land in Rexburg and Chad encouraged them to build on that land. Lori Vallow was not present but Alex Cox was. Melanie says the visit to the land was about an hour. Prior mentions that on the night of the 22nd, Alex was babysitting JJ. Lori shares that between 9 p.m. – midnight, Alex was coming and going from Lori’s house. Melanie was in one bedroom at Lori’s house, David was in another bedroom and Lori was in her own room. Melanie says JJ had a little bed in the corner of Lori’s room and that’s where he would sleep. Melanie says she remembers Alex coming in with JJ while she was recording a podcast with Lori and David about spiritual experiences.
9:40 a.m. Prior asks Melanie about her relationship with Tylee. Melanie says she didn’t have a relationship with Tylee. Prior asks about Melanie’s relationship with JJ. Melanie says she tried to communicate but he did not reciprocate so there wasn’t a relationship. Prior asks Melanie if she has an autistic child and she says she does. Melanie says her autistic child was interviewed by the police about the whereabouts of JJ. Melanie’s son told her that he had a short visit with officers about the whereabouts of JJ.
9:35 a.m. Prior now asking about Alex Cox. He asks Melanie to describe Alex’s relationship with Lori. Melanie says they were very close. Prior mentions that Alex gave up a job to move with Lori to Rexburg. They talk about how close they are as brother and sister.
9:30 a.m. Prior asks who was present during her meeting with Rob Wood on Saturday. She says Wood was there along with her boyfriend, David Warwick, and some law enforcement officers were there. Prior asks how many times Melanie has spoken with FBI agents. She says 2-3 times sometime in 2020. Prior asks when, specifically, and Melanie says she can’t recall. He is now listing months of the year and Melanie says she can’t recall the specific time. Prior asks, “Was it an uneventful discussion? Is that why you can’t remember it?” Melanie says she doesn’t remember because it was on the phone.
9:25 a.m. Prior asks if Melanie ever met with Rexburg Police officers. She says some RPD detectives and prosecutor Rob Wood traveled to Arizona to meet with her. The topic of the discussion was “everybody” – meaning Chad Daybell, Lori Vallow and Alex Cox. Prior asks if police discussed with Melanie the fact that she lied to a police officer. Melanie says no. Prior asks if she was ever offered any deal to testify in the case. Melanie responds, “Never.” Prior asks Melanie when she arrived in town. She says yes – on Saturday. Prior asks if Wood coached her or told her how to respond to questions when she arrived. She said no. Melanie said, “He asked me questions, I offered answers.”
9:20 a.m. Melanie admits she lied to the police about the fact that she had JJ. Prior asking if she knows lying to police is a crime. She says yes and then called the police to admit she had lied. Melanie says she went to Utah and when she arrived home to Arizona, she immediately went to the Gilbert Police Department and spoke with Officer Pillar for at least two hours. She then visited him again in-person within a few weeks.
9:15 a.m. Melanie says she had a very close friendship with Lori. Prior asks if they were like sisters. Melanie says “possibly.” Prior asks Melanie how many times she has spoken with the Gilbert Police Department. Melanie says multiple times – maybe 5-6. She says the first time she spoke with police was on Dec. 7 or 8. Prior asks if it’s possible that a Gilbert officer left her a voicemail in November. She says yes.
9:10 a.m. Prior asks if Melanie has any sort of disorder that helps her understand things. Melanie says no. Prior asks when Melanie met Lori Vallow. She says at a church. Chad was not there, according to Melanie. Melanie says she met Chad in Mesa, Arizona in 2018 a week or two after she met Lori. They then saw each other again in St. George, Utah at a conference about science, Book of Mormon evidence, dreams, visions, etc. Prior asks Melanie her relationship with David Warwick. She says David is her boyfriend.
9:05 a.m. Melanie says she first met Chad 2-3 years ago at a preparedness camp in Morgan, Utah. Prior asks if the preparedness camp has any kind of religious undertones. Melanie says people shared their spiritual experiences and dreams at the camp. When asked if there was any church affiliated with the group, Melanie says it was members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Prior asks why Melanie looked at Rob Wood. She says she was looking around the room.
9:00 a.m. Day 2 of Chad Daybell’s preliminary hearing is underway. Melanie Gibb is the first witness on the stand. Daybell’s defense attorney, John Prior, will begin questioning her.
ST. ANTHONY — Chad Daybell will appear before Judge Faren Eddins for a second day Tuesday as his preliminary hearing continues.
Proceedings are scheduled to start at 9 a.m. in the Fremont County Courthouse and will be streamed lived on EastIdahoNews.com. Daybell is charged with two felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence, and two felony counts of destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence.
On Monday, Rexburg Police detectives, the Brigham Young University-Idaho Student Dean and Melanie Gibb, a close friend, offered testimony. Tuesday’s hearing will begin with Gibb back on the stand as Daybell’s attorney, John Prior, begins his cross-examination.
Daybell was escorted into court wearing a bulletproof vest and handcuffs. Dressed in a white shirt and tie, he showed very emotion although he did smile occasionally during proceedings.
The purpose of the hearing is for Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood to convince Eddins that Daybell likely committed the crimes he’s accused of. Wood has subpoenaed several people to testify, including FBI Special Agent Benjamin Dean, FBI Special Agent Steven Daniels, FBI Special Agent Gary Lyu and Rylene Nowlin, an employee with Idaho State Police Forensic Services.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Eddins will decide whether Daybell’s case should be bound over, or advanced, from magistrate court to district court. If that happens, a district judge will be assigned, an arraignment will be scheduled and the case will eventually go before a jury.
Daybell was arrested June 9 after the remains of Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 16, were found buried on his property. His wife, Lori Daybell, is scheduled for a preliminary hearing in Fremont County Monday, Aug. 10 on two felony charges of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence.
EastIdahoNews.com will provide numerous updates on this story throughout the day as the hearing progresses. Refresh this page for the latest details beginning at 9 a.m.