LIVE UPDATES FROM THE LORI VALLOW DAYBELL TRIAL
EDITOR’S NOTE: Some of the details in this story are graphic. Reader discretion is advised.
5 p.m. Sketches from today include FBI Special Agent Steve Daniels, Forensic Pathologist Dr. Garth Warren and FBI Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Angi Christensen.
3:32 p.m. Court is adjourned for the day. Join me tonight at 7:30 p.m. for “Courtroom Insider.” I’ll break down everything that happened today in Lori Vallow Daybell’s case. Find the live show on my Facebook page and the EastIdahoNews.com YouTube channel.
3:31 p.m. Smith has one more set of close-ups of sharp trauma for today. There are four photos on the screen.
3:29 p.m. We now see images of a CT scan Christensen performed. She points out areas of sharp trauma on the bones in the pubic region.
3:28 p.m. You can see evidence of the sharp trauma in some bones on both sides – meaning the instrument went all the way through.
3:27 p.m. Christensen says the images we are seeing are not consistent with dismemberment because they are not near joints. “The purpose of dismemberment is to break the body into smaller pieces. In this case, all of the sharp traumas are in the area of the pelvic region.”
3:26 p.m. Christensen says an “external force” was imposed on the bone. She has experience looking at bodies that have been dismembered. “Typically sharp trauma in dismemberment cases appear around joints,” she says.
3:23 p.m. The next exhibit is a photo that shows the sharp alterations on the bones. Christensen says there were five areas of sharp trauma on the left hip bone, and they were not the result of disease process.
3:22 p.m. Something with a “small service area” caused trauma to these bones, Christensen says. She is not sure what tool was used to cause the trauma.
3:21 p.m Christensen also points out thermal damage to the jaw bone. Christensen has experience in bone trauma. She says there is blunt trauma, sharp trauma and high-velocity trauma. Christensen identified sharp trauma on three of Tylee’s bones – the left and right hip bones and the back of the pelvis.
3:20 p.m. Lori continues to look down – not at the screen showing her daughter’s bones.
3:18 p.m. We now see a picture of a human skeleton, and Christensen shows where the femur is on the body. She points to the legs. The next photo shows three parts of Tylee’s skull. On the right side of the face and upper jaw bone, there is a blackened area that was altered from heat.
3:16 p.m. The first photo is shown on the big screen. It shows portions of Tylee’s left and right femur. On the backside of these bones is where Christensen found the carnivore activity.
3:15 p.m. The photos are admitted into evidence. Christensen says there was one bone that had “carnivore activity” — some sort of mammal had chewed on it.
3:13 p.m. Thomas is questioning Christensen about the validity of photos in her presentation.
3:10 p.m. Christensen says she documented her findings in a report, and photographs were taken and placed in her exam notes. Smith asks to admit a report as evidence.
3:08 p.m. Christensen says there was evidence the bones were subjected to thermal damage. Burning changes the color of the bone to tan, black and eventually white.
3:06 p.m. Lori is whispering with her attorneys. They have no problem with the notes, and the bailiff gives them to Dr. Christensen. Christensen says at least one bone was bent or hinged.
3:05 p.m. Christensen asks if she can refer to her notes. Smith asks permission from the judge. The defense is reviewing the notes before permitting them in.
3:03 p.m. Christensen said when she received the remains, they were “fragmented in nature,” and a lot of them were burned. Three bones had sharp edges that were likely impacted by a tool.
3:01 p.m. Christensen said all major parts of the skeleton were represented when she did the assessment.
3 p.m. The Ada County Coroner requested help from Christensen. Christensen did the initial visual assessment, measured the bones, looked at some items with a microscope and did a CT scan of the bones. Christensen examined around 100 bones belonging to Tylee Ryan.
2:57 p.m. Christensen says a medical examiner would refer skeletal remains to a forensic anthropologist if they wanted a more in-depth exam. She says generally the exam will begin with a visual assessment of the bones and could progress to looking at bones under a microscope or using X-rays.
2:56 p.m. Christensen describes her credentials and training. “Forensic anthology is a specialized area that includes the analysis of skeletal remains.”
2:54 p.m. Rachel Smith is questioning Dr. Christensen. She is a forensic anthropologist for the FBI in Quantico, Virginia, where she has worked since 2004.
2:51 p.m. We are back from the break. Dr. Angi Christensen is the next witness called by the state.
2:24 p.m. Thomas says Dr. Warren may be recalled, so they ask Boyce to keep him under subpoena. He is excused as a witness for today. We are now taking an afternoon break.
2:23 p.m. Thomas asks about the bruises found on JJ’s body and if they looked fresh. Warren says the bruises could have been from within hours before JJ died. Thomas has no further questions, and Warren is released from the witness stand.
2:21 p.m. After a feisty back and forth over why Warren didn’t swab JJ’s nasal cavities for evidence of plastic bag fibers, Thomas says they will just have to disagree about why it wasn’t done. Warren says it’s never done with a plastic bag over the head. “You’re not breathing in plastic, you’re breathing in air and that’s why you die. There’s no air.”
2:18 p.m. Warren: “You find zero reason for them to be dead, then it’s reasonable to conclude that it was the cause of death.” Thomas asks why Warren didn’t swab JJ’s nasal cavity. Warren says he would never do that in these types of circumstances. Thomas says, “I’m going based on things I’ve seen in movies.” Warren responds, “That’s scary.”
2:17 p.m. Thomas asks if Warren collected inside JJ’s sinuses. Warren says no. Thomas asks Warren how he came to the conclusion that JJ was smothered with a plastic bag. “He was found with a plastic bag over his head, it was tight, and there were signs of a struggle,” Warren says.
2:15 p.m. Warren says before JJ’s autopsy, he held a briefing with Rexburg police, Fremont County sheriff detectives and an FBI agent. Warren was given a timeline of the case from when the kids disappeared to when they were found.
2:14 p.m. Thomas asks if the autopsy was recorded. Warren says no. They do not video or audio record autopsies. Thomas asks what he remembers about JJ and Tylee’s autopsies. Warren remembers collecting fingernails, the bag the body came in and the duct tape. He does not remember specific conversations with anyone from that day about the evidence being collected.
2:12 p.m. Thomas asks if an officer or prosecutor is telling Warren what to collect. He responds, “It’s a team approach. There are typical things we always get. If we can, we always try to get fingernail swabs, hand swabs, oral swabs. … Sometimes, law enforcement will ask for specific things.”
2:11 p.m. Thomas asks who is in the room when autopsies are done. Warren says during this case, he had three technicians helping him. Rob Wood, two Rexburg police detectives, the Fremont County coroner and a Fremont County detective were also there.
2:09 p.m. Thomas asks Warren what his training is regarding evidence collection. Warren says during one fellowship, he was trained on how to get nail swabs, fingernail clippings, getting clothing off body, etc.
2:08 p.m. I have not seen Lori look up from her notebook since we returned from lunch an hour ago.
2:07 p.m. Thomas asks if the Ada County Coroner’s Office is independent of law enforcement. Warren says his office works with them but not for them.
2:06 p.m. Warren explains that he completed three different fellowships as part of his training.
2:05 p.m. Thomas asks Warren about his medical degree and where he went for his undergraduate work. Warren responds that he went to Stanford.
2:05 p.m. Wood has no further questions for Warren. John Thomas will now cross-examine the forensic pathologist.
2:02 p.m. The next photo shows a bag that contained small pieces of unrecognizable bones. The following picture shows another paper bag that contained more small, charred, crumbling, unrecognizable bones. The final photo shows another small bag labeled “suspected organic matter.” There were small charred pieces of soft tissue in the bag.
2 p.m. We now see a photo of a small paper bag on the screen. Warren says small fragments of unidentifiable charred bones were found inside this bag. The next photo is another small bag sealed and labeled “firepit B.” Small fragments of charred, unrecognizable bone was inside this bag.
2 p.m. Boyce says the victims will have an opportunity to view the photographic evidence if they wish.
1:59 p.m. We are moving on to bag 3 of 3. Warren says inside this bag were five smaller paper envelopes. Boyce says from this point forward, the photos can be projected on the big screen so we will get to see them.
1:58 p.m. The next photo is multiple charged pieces of bone, unrecognizable bones, small bones likely from Tylee’s hands or feet. These were all in a brown paper bag.
1:56 p.m. The next image is bag 2 of 3 after it’s been cleaned up. The organs have been removed but all the bones remain. Warren describes a scapula, long bones and multiple rib fragments. There is also a sternum and black, charred bones that are unrecognizable.
1:55 p.m. One kidney was identified. Warren is now describing that photo. The kidney was charred.
1:54 p.m. Warren describes the next photo, which shows a close-up of Tylee’s charred heart. “There is decomposition and it’s falling apart.” Tylee’s lungs were significantly shrunken and were like a “hard sponge.”
1:52 p.m. The next image shows Tylee’s heart right in the middle of the picture, and on both sides of the heart are her right and left lung. They were still attached to each other. “The heart and the lungs are both significantly shrunken, hey’re disrupted, they’re burned, they’ve fallen apart.”
1:51 p.m. The next image shows Tylee’s skull, and where her eyeballs would be. There is charring and dirt on the skull. Warren describes a large fragment of her cranium. There are teeth – blackened and charred – but there were still some teeth intact.
1:50 p.m. The next image is from bag 2 of 3. There are more charred remains, along with brown paper bags. One is sealed with tape.
1:47 p.m. The next image shows bag 2 of 3 – how it was received as a suspected female. The next image is the lock on the body bag showing that it was intact. The next image shows what Warren found once the bag was broken open. “There are large masses and clumps of – it’s hard to tell – but there are clumps of tissue, you can feel the bone…on the largest mass of comingled tissue there is some green discoloration.” The green is from the bucket found with the remains.
1:46 p.m. The next image shows close-ups of Tylee’s body parts, bones and other artifacts. There is also charred ash, dirt, twigs and rock.
1:45 p.m. Still on bag 1 of 3. The next image shows what was in the paper bag labeled “burial site?” There are multiple charred pieces of bone and other debris.
1:44 p.m. All of the skeletal remains were sent to the FBI for testing. The next image is still bag 1 of 3. This shows charred and decomposed soft tissue. “On the right are blackened chunks of material determined to be clumps of mud, ash and rock.”
1:41 p.m. This photo shows charred remains with clumps of mud, dirt, soft tissue and bone that were inside the body bag. The next image shows what was in the “comingled clump of charred tissue.” Warren says on the far left is a “sacrum with decomposed tissue with black and charring.” The right and left hip bones are in the remains with part of a femur. There are also fragments of small bowel found within the comingled remains. The photo also shows some small bones and cartilage.
1:40 p.m. I will describe the next few images based on Warren’s description, as I cannot see the photos.
1:38 p.m. We will not be shown the next few images. Lori can look at them, but her head has remained down with her back to the monitor. Configurations are made so those sitting behind the prosecution’s table cannot see their monitor.
1:36 p.m. The next image is a close-up shot of the red lock on the body bag with Tylee’s case number written on the lock. The next image shows inside two brown paper bags inside the body bag after the seal was broken. One bag is labeled, “burial site?” and the other bag is not labeled.
1:35 p.m. We are shown the first photo. Wood asks Warren to describe it. “The remains came in three separate bags. This is labeled 1 of 3, and you can see there’s a red seal through the zippers of the bag. The seal is to preserve evidence,” he responds.
1:34 p.m. It appears members of the public will see some of the photos – but not the most graphic. The jurors will see every photo on the screens in front of them. The judge, defense (including Lori) and prosecutors will see all of the pictures.
1:32 p.m. John Thomas objects that the photos are too prejudicial and should not be admitted. Boyce says he has considered the objection and overrules the objection. “But there are some photographs in here, not all of them, in order to minimize the inflammatory effect should not be shown on the large projector screen,” Boyce says.
1:30 p.m. Larry and Kay Woodcock are in the courtroom this afternoon. Larry told me it’s hard to be here, but it’s hard to not be here too. They want to be here as often as they can.
1:28 p.m. Warren asks if photos were taken during Tylee’s autopsy. He says yes. Wood asks to admit over 30 photographs as evidence.
1:27 p.m. Warren collected multiple pieces of soft tissue, skeletal muscle (what he thought was liver) and other organs for potential DNA analysis. “You can use blood and tissue samples to get DNA from those sources.” The remains were three bags. In bag #2, there was a single strand of hair. That was submitted to law enforcement. A melted green bucket was also found in bag #2. It was also given to the police for evidence.
1:25 p.m. Warren reviewed Tylee’s medical records. She had anxiety, ovarian cysts, pancreatitis and some other minor health issues. Wood asks if anything in her medical history would cause a reason for her death. Warren responds, “No. Not in my opinion.”
1:23 p.m. Warren says he found no drugs or substances to explain the decedents’ deaths. Tylee’s case met all the qualifications to determine she died by homicide by unspecified means. “This is a homicide, I just can’t tell you exactly why.”
1:21 p.m. Wood begins by asking Warren about homicide by unspecified means. “There are specific guidelines and criteria used dealing with the cause of death. 1. It has to be objectively suspicious circumstances – dismembered body, body is burned, body is buried out of site – and others. This case clearly fits number one. 2. No findings at autopsy to explain the death.”
1:18 p.m. Judge Boyce is back on the bench. Jurors are being brought in. Wood will continue to question Warren.
1:14 p.m. Back in the courtroom. During the lunch break, I spoke with a man from South Africa who coordinated his trip to America in conjunction with the trial. One of my classmates from the 4th grade also came up to say hi. She traveled from Utah to be here. The courtroom is packed with attendees and people are watching in the overflow room too.
12:05 p.m. We are now taking an hour lunch break.
12:03 p.m. Warren determined Tylee’s cause of death as homicide by unspecified means. “The cause of death was by homicide but I just can’t pinpoint exactly what that was.”
12:01 p.m. Warren was able to identify Tylee’s pelvis with her femur, portions of her skull including the area where her eyeball would be and portions where her teeth would have been. Multiple long bones and rib fragments were also identified. “There weren’t nice clean bones. These were bones that had significant artifact secondary to the fire. They were blackened and charred,” Warren says.
12 p.m. Warren was able to find Tylee’s heart connected to her right and left lung, one kidney, a few small segments of bowel, a portion of a liver and small fragments of brain matter. “These organs had severe decomposition, significant burning artifacts, they were charred and shrunken. Presumably the rest of hte organs burned away or were never found.”
11:57 a.m. There was no blood or urine to send for a toxicology but Warren says you can send skeletal muscle. He cut into the skeletal muscle and “got the best tissue” he could. He sent that in for a toxicology report. The report came back positive for ibuprofen, a common decompositional product, carboxyhemoglobin and iron. Carboxyhemoglobin in a fire is often released along with multiple other cases. “If that is breathed in and the person is alive, you’ll get a high carboxyhemoglobin level. That’s why we did the test. In this particular case, the carboxyhemoglobin level came back extremely low. There is no evidence to support that Tylee was alive when she was burned.”
11:56 a.m. “We were looking for anything. Bullets, a portion of a knife, any other foreign debris that we could collect as evidence,” Warren says. No projectiles or portions of weapons were found. “Essentially what we saw was a collection of bones along with other debris. A lot of mud and dirt.”
11:55 a.m. Warren says Tylee’s autopsy took about a week. All of the remains were x-rayed.
11:54 a.m. “This autopsy was different. The vast majority of the time when I perform an autopsy I get an entire body and there’s a process we go through. Tylee’s case was different. Her remains were received in three separate sealed bags. Two of the bags were black body bags and the third was a large brown paper bag that was sealed. Within that contacted five other paper bags within it. So I essentially received Tylee’s remains in multiple different bags,” Warren says.
11:52 a.m. Wood asks if the bruises on the neck could be decomposition. Warren does think so. Wood now asks if Warren was involved in the autopsy of Tylee Ryan. It started on the same day as JJ’s – June 11, 2020. Tylee’s autopsy was done after JJ’s.
11:51 a.m. Wood asks Warren if the bruises on JJ’s body were from before or after he died. Warren says they were premortem because when someone dies, there is no circulation so bodies can’t bruise.
11:50 a.m. The feeling in the courtroom is very heavy. Even though the audience did not see the photos, we heard the description and could tell at least one juror was affected by them.
11:48 a.m. Wood is finished with the exhibits. Boyce says the victims will be allowed to view the exhibits if they would like in another setting. Prosecutors are re-adjusting their seats to get the monitors and seats back to normal.
11:46 a.m. Exhibit 176JJ is a photo of JJ’s lower body and possible bruising, Warren says.
11:45 a.m. Warren describes a photo that shows bright red bruising under JJ’s fingernails. “It essentially means there has been trauma to that area and blood vessels have been broken. It’s essentially caused a bruise.”
11:43 a.m. Warren says there appears to be scratch-like abrasions on JJ’s neck.
11:41 a.m. Warren describes a photo of the left side of JJ’s neck. “There are a couple of things you can see. One – you can see a slight or faint impression of where the duct tape was around the neck. You can see multiple brown to light brown abrasions – some with a small amount of red hemorrhage – that was scattered on the left side of the neck.”
11:39 a.m. The next image is a portion of JJ’s right upper arm where there was hemorrhaging, which Warren says is consistent with bruising.
11:39 a.m. Lori appears to be crying. She is wiping her eyes with tissues and will not look at the screen. The next image shows bruising on JJ’s arm.
11:38 a.m. The next image is of JJ’s arm highlighted with a ruler. There is some discoloration that could be associated to bruising.
11:36 a.m. Wood asks about white spots that are apparently on JJ’s side. Warren said they are likely salt minerals that are part of the decomposition process. The next image shows JJ’s lower half from the back down.
11:35 a.m. Warren describes another photo showing JJ’s lower half – his legs and his feet. The next picture is of JJ face down. “We always get photographs of a decedent laying face down so we can better evaluate the back. This simply shows there is decomposition involving the back and the shoulders.”
11:33 a.m. The next photo is of JJ’s upper body including his face and arms. It shows the state of decomposition he was in and on his chest there is a green/tan skin discoloration. I have only seen Lori look at the screen once briefly during the presentation of the photos.
11:32 a.m. The next photo is of JJ’s face. “We always get a photograph of the decedent’s face and at the time it helped us with a preliminary identification based on photos I and everyone else in the room had seen. This did look like JJ,” Warren explains.
11:31 a.m. More images are shown of duct tape found wrapped around JJ’s wrists. Now Warren describes the diaper that JJ was wearing when he was buried. There is decomposition fluid and sluffed-off tissue on the diaper.
11:30 a.m. The next photo is a close-up of the duct tape around JJ’s wrists. “It appeared it had been wrapped around one wrist and then the other wrist had been laid on top of it and then it was wrapped around the other wrist separately.”
11:28 a.m. Warren says the next photo shows a “large band of duct tape” that was removed from JJ’s arms and given to law enforcement. The next image is the same duct tape taken from a different angle to show the inside of the duct tape. “You can see the decomposition staining on large portions of the duct tape.”
11:27 a.m. The next photo is a strip of duct tape that covered JJ’s mouth. It was submitted to police as evidence. The next photo shows JJ’s hands wrapped multiple times with duct tape. Most of the jurors are looking at their monitors and showing little emotion – but the one I referenced earlier is looking at the witness, at the ceiling, at the prosecutor or looking down.
11:25 a.m. Warren now describes a photo of the strip of duct tape covering JJ’s mouth. “JJ’s face is in a state of decomposition…It’s green in discoloration and there is skin slippage.”
11:24 a.m. The next image shows duct tape covering JJ’s mouth from jawline to jawline. Lori just glanced at the screen and then looked away. “We carefully removed the plastic bag and the duct tape from JJ’s head,” Warren says while describing the photo. There is decomposed tissue and fluid shown in this photo.
11:23 a.m. The next photo is the lower half of the body showing JJ’s pajama pants. The next picture shows the lower half of JJ’s body. His ankles are bound with duct tape. The juror who was not looking at the screen is now crying and wiping her eyes with a tissue.
11:22 a.m. Warren continues to describe the autopsy photos and the extent of the decomposition fluid. “You can see a small portion of his arm, his left upper arm, and you can see it’s in a state of decomposition. It has a tan, leathery appearance with skin slippage.”
11:20 a.m. Lori is not looking at the monitor. I’ve noticed one female juror is not looking at her screen. She is looking up at the ceiling and rubbing her finger back and forth over her lips.
11:19 a.m. The next photo is the first view of JJ after they opened the black plastic bag. Warren says there is a white plastic bag over the head wrapped multiple times with duct tape. The next image is a photo of the white bag over the head and the duct tape over the head.
11:17 a.m. The next image is a red body lock after it’s been cut by the forensic team and removed. The next image is a photo after the sealed body bag is open. “At that point, we opened that bag and peel back some of the duct tape. Then we handed over that black bag to law enforcement as evidence,” Warren says.
11:16 a.m. Boyce is back on the bench and says the logistics have been worked out. Wood continues to question Dr. Warren.
11:14 a.m. There are seven 24-30 inch monitors placed throughout the jury box. Jurors will clearly see the screens showing the autopsy photos but those in the audience gallery will not.
11:12 a.m. Change of plans. The prosecutors turned the monitor around and moved their chairs so they now face the audience and there’s no way for anyone in the audience to see the screen. Wood now asks for another sidebar.
11:11 a.m. Lori is looking at the screen. Thomas raises a concern that people sitting behind prosecutors can see their screen. Boyce asks Madison County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Spencer Rammell to stand behind the screen so he can block the public from viewing the monitor. Boyce jokes, “I knew having you on the prosecution would come in handy at some point.”
11:09 a.m. I will relay the information said about the photos but can not describe them as I can’t see them. Warren describes the first photo as JJ in a black sealed body bag. A red seal is on sealing the zipper of the body bag and a ruler is apparently on the photos with the case number listed on it.
11:08 a.m. Spectators in the courtroom and overflow areas will not see the photos. Jurors, the defense (including Lori) and prosecution will see the photos. Wood says he did not take a position on the ruling and left it to the discretion of the court.
11:06 a.m. Boyce is back on the bench. He says he has considered the evidence and made a decision that it would be inappropriate for many of the photos to be publicly demonstrated due to their graphic nature. Boyce is also concerned that the photos on the big screen would “blow them up.” So the images will be shown on the monitors in front of the jurors and at the defense and prosecution table.
11:05 a.m. We are waiting for Judge Boyce to re-enter the courtroom and decide how/if the autopsy photos will be shown.
11:02 a.m. Lori is chatting with her attorneys. She doesn’t seem too concerned as she’s smiling and actively engaged in conversation.
11 a.m. Lori’s uncle, Rex Conner, is back in the courtroom today with his daughters. They, along with two victim advocates, are sitting in the prosecution benches. No other family members are in the reserved area.
10:58 a.m. Several jurors stand to stretch their legs. Lori continues to write in her notebook. Attorneys are walking back into the courtroom.
10:52 a.m. All of the attorneys have left the courtroom with the judge. Lori sits at the defense table with her back toward the spectators. Her side can be observed by jurors who sit directly across from her. Lori is writing in the yellow notebook.
10:51 a.m. Thomas asks to have the photos shown in black-and-white. Wood objects and says that’s not the reality. Boyce calls for a sidebar. White noise is played in the courtroom. The defense does not want these photos shown.
10:48 a.m. There are around three dozen photos taken during the autopsy that Wood asks to admit as evidence. Thomas objects and asks the court to exclude them because they are unnecessarily prejudicial. Wood responds, “There are photographs of what actually happened. What actually transpired during the autopsy? There’s no better evidence to explain the autopsy process then by these and Dr. Warren’s testimony. They are true and they are accurate.” Boyce overrules the objection and photos will be admitted.
10:44 a.m. Audio issues resolved. Warren is back on the stand and Rod Wood continues to question. Wood asks to admit photos of the autopsy.
10:41 a.m. Larry and Kay Woodcock are not in the courtroom this morning. They were aware what would be discussed today. Judge Boyce is back on the bench but court staff are working out some audio issues.
10:39 a.m. Here is a drug fact sheet about GHB.
10:12 a.m. Time for a mid-morning break. Back in 15-20 minutes.
10:11 a.m. Wood asks Warren to characterize the amounts of GHB found in JJ Vallow. He says, “inconclusive.” GHB can be found in tissues including livers postmortem and “there’s really no way for me to tell for sure whether this is just a naturally occurring product in the body that was there or if JJ was given GHB. I can’t say one way or another based on the levels.”
10:07 a.m. There was no blood or urine due to the state of decomposition so a sample of JJ’s liver was sent for a toxicology. Full-body x-rays were also performed but they did not show any overt fractures or abnormalities. The toxicology report shows low levels of ethanol (alcohol), a drug called GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid), caffeine and theobromine (pardon the spellings) that can be found in cocoa and tea.
10:05 a.m. Warren did not observe any rib fractures. He did not see anything unusual in the lungs.
10:04 a.m. There was no sign of disease. Warren made incisions on the heart and lungs. All the organs were still there and well-defined, Warren says. “All of the organs showed decomposition changes but I did not see any trauma to the internal organs or evidence of overt natural disease to any of the organs.”
10:04 a.m. There was also bruises on the left arm and a hemorrhage on the right thumbnail. “There were also other areas that were concerning or suspicious – bruising on the ankles that may have been associated with the duct tape.” Many members of the jury are taking detailed notes as Warren speaks. Lori is taking notes and looking up at the witness.
10 a.m. JJ’s body was in a state of decomposition. Warren describes the graphic details of the state of JJ’s body. Warren found a scratch-like abrasion on the left side of JJ’s neck.
9:58 a.m. The clothes were removed and submitted to law enforcement. A single cut was made on the duct tape and given to law enforcement. The plastic bag was given to the law enforcement. All of the fingernails were cut and given to law enforcement. Oral, anal and penile swaps were conducted in case there was a sexual crime involved. A portion of the rib, bone, hair and two molars were taken out of JJ’s mouth for DNA purposes.
9:56 a.m. Warren says they received JJ’s body in a body bag. He opened it up and it was wrapped in plastic. “Right from the beginning there were some things that obviously jumped out. There was a white plastic bag over JJ’s head wrapped around his face multiple times with duct tape all the way down to the neck. The forearms and the hands were bound with duct tape and the ankles were found with duct tape. JJ was wearing a red pajama top, red pajama bottoms and black socks. Another quite obvious thing is the body was in a sense of decomposition. There was dirt and mold on the tops and bottoms. You could tell even with the clothing on that the body was in a state of decomposition by the color of the skin.”
9:53 a.m. Warren conducted the autopsy on JJ Vallow on June 11, 2020 at the Ada County Morgue. The autopsy took about four hours. Warren says JJ died of asphyxia by plastic bag over the head and duct tape over the mouth. Bound with duct tape, bruising on the arms and abrasion to the neck.
9:52 a.m. Warren then cuts into the body, collects urine, blood, eye fluid and other things are collected from the body. Organs are inspected and weighed. Warren says he has conducted autopsies on over 200 bodies.
9:50 a.m. Warren says typically the body is received in a body bag. The bag is typically sealed. He opens the body bag and observes the scene as is – what were they wearing, any evidence of medical intervention, etc. The clothes are then removed and evidence is gathered if needed. A head-to-toe exam is performed – hair, eye color, ears, fingernails are all described. Warren looks for anything that could determine cause of death.
9:49 a.m. Wood asks Warren what an unattended death is. Warren says the death is unattended by a clinician. If somebody dies in the hospital, that’s an attended death. Someone who dies outside of the hospital without a doctor is an unattended death.
9:47 a.m. Warren says cases that fall under the medical examiner/coroner’s office are typically not-natural deaths. Tests are done to come up with a cause and manner of death. “That’s my ultimate job – to determine the cause and manner of death” he says. Cause of death is what causes you to die – heart attack, car crash, gunshot wound, etc. Manner of death deals more with circumstances surrounding the death and there are typically five options – natural, accident, suicide, homicide and undetermined.
9:45 a.m. Warren is a member of the American Board of Pathology and serves on other boards. He details the tests he had to pass in order to practice pathology.
9:43 a.m. Wood asks Warren what pathology involves. Warren says it’s the study of disease and explains what some of his job involves.
9:41 a.m. Warren investigates homicides, suicides, accidents and there is an entire team that investigates these deaths. He says his job is to determine why people die. The Ada County Coroner’s Office has a contract with Madison and Fremont Counties to conduct autopsies. Warren performs 200-250 autopsies a year. He believes he’s conducted 1,200-1,500 cases in Idaho.
9:40 a.m. Warren has been licensed to practice in Idaho for six years. He practiced in Colorado for five years. He attended the University of Health Sciences Center in Portland, Oregon and did a general pathology residency with a two-year fellowship in neuropathology. He also did a one-year fellowship in forensic pathology. Warren works for the Ada County Coroner.
9:39 a.m. Warren is dressed in a dark suit with a gray shirt and tie. Wood will question Warren, who is a forensic pathologist. “A forensic pathologist is a medical doctor who tries to determine how people die,” he says.
9:38 a.m. Next witness up is Dr. Garth Warren.
9:35 a.m. Thomas asks Daniels if he has met with other senior team leaders in other parts of the country to discuss this case. He says no but in preparation for the search warrant, Daniels did talk with the Evidence Response Team in Virginia. Thomas has no further questions for Daniels and Wood is done with his questions too.
9:33 a.m. Thomas asks about the grid system the law enforcement team set up on the property. Thomas asks if the dirt area outside of the firepit was sifted. Daniels says he would need to ask his other team members to be sure. Thomas responds, “We’ve had about three years to prepare for this. This didn’t come up over the past three years?” Daniels says he will need to check with his colleagues.
9:31 a.m. Daniels believes he has processed another burial scene in Idaho on the Fort Hall Reservation. Daniels says he probably shouldn’t talk about specific cases. Thomas says it goes to his credibility. Daniels responds that he’s been on cases in Missoula and other cases involving human remains in firepits.
9:28 a.m. Thomas asks Daniels about his experience and him being to 5-7 burials over the years. Daniels has always been in the Salt Lake City division which covers Utah, Idaho and Montana. Thomas asks Daniels about his first uncover of a burial. Daniels says he would have to look it up. Thomas asks for clarification on the 5-7 burials. Daniels says some were individual burials, others had more than one burial.
9:27 a.m. Wood has no further questions for Daniels. John Thomas will be cross-examining him.
9:25 a.m. Wood asks Daniels to contrast the differences between JJ and Tylee’s burial sites. He says there was a big difference – JJ’s remains were all in tact, wrapped in plastic bags and very coordinated with rocks and wooden planks. Tylee’s burial site was just “a mass of organic material” that fell apart when the team went to uncover it. “Such a big contrast for us as a team going from JJ’s – how precise everything was placed – versus Tylee’s melted, charred, mass – how that was placed in that burial.”
9:21 a.m. And we have another exhibit that Wood wants entered into evidence. More photos from the crime scene. Thomas objects based on previous reasons. Boyce overrules and lets the pictures in.
9:20 a.m. Wood asks to admit another exhibit. Once again – more photos from the presentation. Thomas again objects based on the fact the pictures were already admitted in the presentation. Boyce overrules the objection and the photos are admitted as evidence.
9:17 a.m. Wood asks to admit another exhibit. Again – more photos that were in the presentation. Thomas again objects based on the fact the pictures were already admitted in the presentation. Boyce overrules the objection and allows the photos in.
9:13 a.m. Wood asks to admit another exhibit containing more photos from the crime scene. Thomas objects that the pictures are cumulative – they were shown in the interactive presentation but Wood wants the jury to have hard copies of the pictures. Boyce overrules the objection and lets the photos in.
9:08 a.m. These photos were just shown to the court. Wood wants them admitted so the jury can review them later rather than having to view the interactive presentation we just witnessed. Thomas objects and says it’s cumulative to admit them again. Boyce is concerned that the photos would be admitted twice but believes they would assist the jury so he allows the admission.
9:07 a.m. Wood asks to admit an exhibit containing ERT (Emergency Response Team) photos taken June 9-10.
9 a.m. The following photo shows burial material laid out on a plastic tarp next to a blue tent area. Another picture shows a wide shot of the backhoe next to JJ’s burial site. “Once we found JJ’s remains, we knew Tylee was around here somewhere. Was Tylee buried underneath JJ? We had to be very careful.” Nothing else was found in burial site #1.
8:58 a.m. The next photo shows duct tape on the black plastic bags. Daniels says duct tape can contain good forensic evidence so they wanted to be very careful. We see another photo of a complete black plastic bag with duct tape on it. The next photo shows decomposition that was leaking out of the plastic bag. Samples were taken of the decomposition.
8:56 a.m. Daniels says multiple tools were being used – shovels, rakes, metal trowels, wooden tools for flesh or organic materials, clay-molding tools, tongue depressors for skeletal remains and more.
8:55 a.m. The next photo shows a wider shot of the burial site. The team needed to carefully sift through the dirt. They divided the grave in half – grid a for the top part of the body and grid b for the lower.
8:54 a.m. Under the black plastic bag is a white plastic bag. Daniels cuts the white plastic bag and human hair starts coming out with the razor blade into his hands. “That’s the point we decide these are human remains. This becomes burial site #1 and it is JJ’s burial site,” Daniels says.
8:52 a.m. Once the planks are removed, we see a black piece of plastic. At this point, Daniels took his hand and brushed aside the soil from the black plastic. “I made an oval shape in the ground and it has the feel of a human skull. That’s what I presume it is,” he says. Daniels took a razor blade and cut into the black plastic bag. “It’s tight to whatever is inside. I had to pull that black plastic bag off and make a razoz blade cut to the bag.”
8:51 a.m. Daniels says you would place planks and rocks to prevent wildlife from finding the human remains. “If they scattered the human remains, a neighbor or someone else could discover them so the grave isn’t as hidden,” Daniels says. He also says once human remains decompose, there is a sinking in the soil. “If there’s a berm to it, it will level out over time.”
8:49 a.m. Now we see boards that were found below the rocks. Daniels says it looks like they were strategically placed. “I’ve probably excavated approximately 5-7 burials. Out of all of those burials, this is the most precise — somebody’s taken the most effort to bury these remains,” Daniels says.
8:48 a.m. A photo is now on the screen showing the large rocks that were found at the burial site. “This was a good indication that this was a burial due to the precise manner the rocks were placed,” Daniels says.
8:45 a.m. Daniels describes a raised berm at the burial site with shorter grass on top compared to longer grass in the surrounding area. Once police discovered the potential burial site, they removed the vegetation layer by layer.
8:43 a.m. Madison County Prosecuting Attorney will continue questioning FBI Special Agent Steve Daniels. We now see an exhibit on the screen showing an overhead view of Chad Daybell’s property. Daniels is discussing burial site #1 – the site where JJ’s remains were found near a tree in the yard.
8:39 a.m. Judge Boyce is on the bench. Jurors are being brought in.
8:33 a.m. John Prior, Chad’s attorney, is here. There are three benches on the left side of the courtroom behind the defense table. The front two are reserved for defense witnesses or family members of Lori. I sit on the third bench behind those. The only people who have ever sat in the reserved rows are John Prior and the defense team’s investigator.
8:31 a.m. All the attorneys are headed back to meet with Judge Boyce in his chambers. Lori remains at the defense table with her back toward the gallery.
8:21 a.m. In the courtroom and ready to go. Lori just walked in wearing a white blouse and dress suit. Many observers who haven’t seen Lori in-person but have come for the trial have told me she looks older than in previous photos. One person just told me she looks like she is in “grandma mode.” Meanwhile – in Chad’s case – a status conference is scheduled on May 4 at 3:45 p.m.
8 a.m. It’s day 16 of Lori Vallow Daybell’s trial. FBI Special Agent Steve Daniels will be back on the stand this morning. You can read a recap of everything that happened yesterday here.