Chad Daybell is accused of killing a mother of five. Her children took the stand in his defense

Two of Chad and Tammy Daybell’s adult children testified that their mother’s health had been deteriorating months leading up to her death, as part of the defense for their father who has been accused of murdering her. Andrea Cavallier reports

Tuesday 21 May 2024 23:42 BST
Chad Daybell’s daughter testifies in his murder trial

If there was a struggle the night before Tammy Daybell was found dead in her room, her son would’ve heard it, he testified at his father’s murder trial.

“I heard nothing,” Garth Daybell told jurors at the Idaho courthouse on Monday.

Both Garth and his sister Emma Daybell Murray took the stand to defend their father Chad Daybell — the self-proclaimed prophet and “doomsday” author accused of murdering their mother and his lover’s two children in 2019.

Tammy Daybell, 49, was found dead in her Rexburg, Idaho bedroom in the early morning hours of 19 October 2019. Her husband was later charged with her murder after an autopsy revealed she had died of asphyxia.

Two of the Daybell’s five adult children testified in their father’s defense that their mother’s health had been deteriorating months leading up to her sudden death. They said she was noticeably more tired, even going to bed before dinner on some nights.

Tammy and Chad Daybell were married in 1990. He is now accused of conspiring with Lori Vallow to kill her
Tammy and Chad Daybell were married in 1990. He is now accused of conspiring with Lori Vallow to kill her (Facebook)

Her oldest son Garth told the court that his mother experienced "fainting spells" after she had been kneeling for a while, and she “was getting tired extremely easily.”

On 18 October 2019, the night before she died, Tammy was too tired to cook dinner for the family and asked him to pick up some fast food instead.

“She said, ‘I don’t feel good today; I don’t want to cook. Can you go get some McDonald’s for us?’” Garth said.

So Garth drove to Rexburg, Idaho and picked up food for himself and for his parents, making sure to get her favorite – a quarter-pounder with cheese. It was Tammy’s last meal.

Garth, who is a teacher during the day, told the court that he left the home again for a night job at a haunted house and when he returned around 1am, he retreated to his room, where he watched YouTube videos for several hours.

“As I passed their bedroom, I heard my father snoring,” he said, adding that didn’t see any sign of a struggle or fight – and as far as he knew, it was a normal night.

A few hours later, Garth was awakened by his dad calling for, “Garth, Garth get up. I need help.”

When Garth got to the bedroom, he saw his mother had rolled out of bed and her feet were tangled in the sheets. As he tried to get her back into bed, he knew something was wrong.

“I felt she was cold and stiff and gray,” he recalled. “I realized she had been not breathing.”

He told the court that if there had been a struggle or fight, he would have heard it. But he said he heard nothing.

Previous testimony from Fremont County Coroner Brenda Dye revealed that Daybell said he found his wife “frozen” on the bedroom floor after she had spent the night coughing and vomiting.

Despite the mysterious circumstances, her family declined an autopsy and Tammy’s death was ruled to be from natural causes.

Chad Daybell's defense calls on his 2 children

His sister-in-law Heather Daybell previously told the court that Daybell had pushed for the quick funeral because he didn’t want to “drag this out.”

“His demeanor seemed strange to me,” she added.

But Daybell’s daughter Emma Daybell Murray, who exchanged smiles with her father as she staunchly defended him on the stand Monday, insisting the way he acted at her mother’s funeral was “typical for any grieving Latter-day Saint husband.”

“Latter-day Saints believe we will be resurrected and with our families forever,” she said. “A funeral isn’t saying goodbye forever—it’s a ‘see you later’. It’s a break.”

She said she told authorities the family did not want an autopsy because their father was so “emotionally out of control.”

“I know the grief he felt was real. He may not have had the same romantic relationship with my mother that he had in the past, but I knew he valued her as a person, and seeing her die was very traumatic,” Emma said.

“I don’t think autopsies should be done on anyone. The idea of my mother’s body undergoing that was very distressing to me.”

In an unwavering, monotone voice, much like her father’s, she told the court about her mother’s declining health, her anemia, her exhaustion and how she would bruise easily from carrying groceries.

“She was always one to meet the demands of daily life without being exhausted and she started going to bed before dinner some nights,” Emma said. “It would be like 5, 6, 7 o’clock at night—and she would sleep in a lot.”

Emma, who worked with her mother at a local elementary school, talked about how her mother was competitive and tried to exercise.

Both Emma and Garth said Tammy’s Fitbit data, which prosecutors used to show her activity was above average until she died, was partially made up as she would shake her wrists to get points while she competed with her family to win fitness challenges.

Emma told the court her mother took supplements like colloidal silver, encouraged others to do the same, and also used an antidepressant to alleviate her symptoms. Colloidal silver, which was used to treat infections before antibiotics became available, is sometimes sold as a homeopathic remedy.

When Emma was asked by Fremont County prosecutor Lindsey Blake if she would be surprised to learn there was no mention of anemia or sleep apnea in Tammy’s medical records, she responded that her mother was an extremely private person and never spoke of her health with others.

However, previous testimony from those who knew Tammy claimed she appeared to be in good health in the days and weeks leading up to her death.

Daybell introduced his children to Lori Vallow the day after Tammy’s funeral, in the home where she had died three days earlier, according to Daybell’s son-in-law Joseph Murray who testified on Tuesday.

Two weeks after Tammy’s death, Daybell and Vallow married on a beach in Hawaii.

Tylee Ryan and Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow were found buried on Chad Daybell’s property in June 2020
Tylee Ryan and Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow were found buried on Chad Daybell’s property in June 2020 (Family handout)

Both of Daybell’s children testified that they knew Daybell and Vallow were together in Hawaii but did not learn the full extent of their relationship until Vallow’s arrest in February 2020. She was charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder of her two children, Tylee and JJ, and conspiracy to commit murder of Tammy.

Prosecutors say that the couple conspired with Vallow’s late brother Alex Cox to kill the children and Daybell’s wife both as part of their doomsday beliefs – but also to collect life insurance money, the kids’ social security and survivor benefits.

It was only after the two children were reported missing – and authorities began delving into Daybell and Vallow’s bizarre cult beliefs – that questions began being asked about Tammy’s death too.

In December 2019, investigators exhumed her body for an autopsy and it was determined that she had died from asphyxiation, not of natural causes.

New video shows Chad Daybell discussing finances with daughter as he tells her ‘I’m not coming back’

The siblings also told jurors that they follow the teachings of the Mormon church but that their father’s faith was far more extreme.

Emma told the court that her father helped cast out a dark entity in her that was causing anxiety.

“Dad cast it out using the power of the priesthood and then I felt better afterwards,” she said.

They said both their father and their mother discussed people being “dark” and “light” — a term that was used by Daybell in messages with Vallow about her children. Daybell would label people light and dark based on how much he believed a person had been taken over by evil.

When asked about her knowledge of the whereabouts of Vallow’s children after they’d gone missing, Emma responded: “From my understanding, I was told that the children were in a safe place.”

In this aerial photo, investigators search for human remains at Chad Daybell's residence in Rexburg, Idaho in June 2020
In this aerial photo, investigators search for human remains at Chad Daybell's residence in Rexburg, Idaho in June 2020 (Post Register )

Their bodies were later found on her father’s property. Emma revealed to the court that she was the one who searched wind directions on her family’s computer, not her father, on the day Vallow’s 16-year-old daughter Tylee Ryan was allegedly killed and burned on the property.

But Daybell’s attorney John Prior insists there is no evidence directly tying Daybell to all three murders and claims his client was manipulated by Vallow, who was convicted of the murders last year and received three life sentences.

Daybell has pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted, he faces the death penalty or life in prison.

Lori Vallow was convicted of the murders last year and received three life sentences
Lori Vallow was convicted of the murders last year and received three life sentences (AP)

Before testifying at the trial this week, Daybell’s children only spoke publicly once, in an interview with CBS’ 48 Hours, where they defended him.

“My father needs someone to be a voice for him,” Emma Murray said. “To let people know what’s real, what we know.”

“I do know that my father believes … that killing someone, murdering someone, is not what God wants.”

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