ST. ANTHONY — Chad Daybell pleaded not guilty to four felony charges Friday morning as his case advances to a jury trial set to begin in January.
Daybell appeared before District Court Judge Steven Boyce who read a summary of Daybell’s charges, including two felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence, and two felony counts of destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence.
Seated next to his attorney, John Prior, Daybell appeared via Zoom from the Fremont County Jail. He was dressed in a white shirt and red tie and showed little emotion during the 10-minute hearing. Prior entered the not guilty plea on behalf of Daybell.
“By pleading not guilty you will maintain all your constitutional rights in this case,” Boyce said. “Among those rights, you have the right to be presumed innocent. The presumption of innocence is a real and important right that lies at the foundation of our criminal justice system.”
Boyce further explained that unless Daybell pleads guilty at a later date or the prosecutor proves to a jury the charges against him beyond a reasonable doubt, the presumption of innocence remains.
Boyce asked Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood, a special attorney appointed to the case, how long would be needed for a jury trial. Wood suggested three weeks and Prior agreed.
The jury trial is scheduled to run from Jan. 11 to 29, in Fremont County. A pretrial conference is set for Dec. 10.
Daybell is the husband of Lori Vallow Daybell, the mother of 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan. The bodies of the children were found in June buried on Chad Daybell’s property.
Since his arrest on June 9, Daybell has been held in the Fremont County Jail on $1 million bail. Earlier this month, he sat in court for his preliminary hearing in which investigators, friends and other witnesses testified.
Lori Daybell is also charged in Fremont County with two felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration, or concealment of evidence. She is scheduled to be arraigned on Sept. 10 before District Judge Dane H. Watkins Jr.
Prior now has 60 days to file a motion if he wants to move the trial to another venue. If convicted of all charges, Daybell could face up to 20 years in prison and $40,000 in fines.