BOISE — JJ Vallow’s grandparents were “completely blindsided and heartbroken” learning they might not be able to sit in the courtroom during their grandson’s murder trial.
Kay and Larry Woodcock have been planning for over three years to attend the trial, with jury selection beginning Monday in Ada County. JJ’s mother, Lori Vallow Daybell, and her husband Chad Daybell, are accused of killing him and his sister, Tylee Ryan. The couple also faces murder charges for the death of Chad’s former wife, Tammy Daybell, and Lori faces charges in Arizona for conspiracy to commit murder in connection to the death of her fourth husband Charles Vallow.
“We continue to be victimized by Lori every single day living life without JJ, Tylee and Charles, then again by possibly denying us the chance to be the face in the courtroom seeking justice for them,” the Woodcocks said in a statement to EastIdahoNews.com late Thursday night. “We made a promise over three years ago to Tylee and JJ to see justice prevail. We will fight until we have exhausted all options to keep that promise.”
The issue of the Woodcocks’ trial attendance was brought up in a hearing Wednesday called by District Judge Steven Boyce to discuss witnesses and victims in the case.
Under Idaho law, defense attorneys and prosecutors can ask a judge to exclude witnesses from attending trials they are testifying in so they do not hear other witnesses’ testimony. There are exemptions for victims, including immediate family members, and Boyce’s question for the attorneys was which family members planned to attend the trial as victims and also testify.
“We believe that Kay Woodcock is a statutory victim, and Larry Woodcock is a statutory victim. Kay Woodcock is the biological grandmother, and I guess now the legal aunt of JJ Vallow, as she’s also someone who cared for him for, I believe, the first seven months of his life,” Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood said.
JJ was born to Kay Woodcock’s son, but the Woodcocks legally took care of him for nearly a year before Lori and Charles, Kay’s brother, adopted him; thus, Kay Woodcock is JJ’s paternal grandmother and aunt.
Wood argued other family member witnesses who would be considered victims include Colby Ryan, Lori’s oldest son; Summer Shiflet, Lori’s sister; and Samantha and Jason Gwilliam, Tammy Daybell’s sister and brother-in-law.
Click here for a more detailed look at JJ and Tylee’s family relations.
Jim Archibald, Lori’s attorney, responded by saying that based on the legal definition of victims being immediate family members, the only person on the witness list who fits in the category is Colby Ryan.
“We do not believe that Kay Woodcock and Larry Woodcock or Summer Shiflet meet that definition. So if they’re intending to be called as witnesses during the trial, we would ask that they be excluded (from sitting in the courtroom),” Archibald said. “We don’t believe a biological grandma, or someone married to a biological grandma, fits the definition under our law.”
Wood responded that if the parties were talking about lending and banking, grandparents are defined as immediate family members under the Residential Mortgage Practices Act, “but yet we’re going to sit here and say that a grandparent is not an immediate family member for purposes of a murder of a grandchild.”
“To tell a grandparent they’re not allowed to watch the trial of the murder of their grandson, someone who was a big part of their life, I think we really are running outside what’s intended by the statute and what’s intended by the Constitution,” Wood said. “Legally, absolutely, no question about it, Larry and Kay Woodcock meet the definition of what a victim is.”
Archibald argued that because Kay Woodcock’s son terminated his parental rights, she is legally not considered JJ’s grandmother.
“For the state to say to kick Grandma out of the courtroom is outrageous – no one’s doing that here. She’s not a grandma. She is an aunt — sister to Charles Vallow,” Archibald argued. “The Idaho adoption laws would support our position that no one is kicking Grandma out of the courtroom.”
After the hearing, which you can listen to the video player above, the Woodcocks hired Shanon Gray, an Oregon-based lawyer “to fight on our behalf.” Gray is also the attorney for the family of Kaylee Goncalves, one of four University of Idaho students who was murdered in November.
“We appreciate the outpouring of love and support from all of you after (the) hearing,” the Woodcocks’ statement said. “We were completely blindsided and heartbroken at the argument made saying we are not JJ’s grandparents and should not be considered victims in this case. … We appreciate your prayers as we fight to keep our promise to JJ and Tylee.”
The prosecution and defense have until 5 p.m. Friday to submit written arguments on the issue. Boyce said he would issue a written ruling on the matter.
EastIdahoNews.com reporter Nate Eaton will be in Boise every day providing live updates from the trial. You can also sign up here for the Daybell Digest – a free nightly newsletter recapping the events from the courtroom each day.