An Idaho judge has vacated Lori Vallow’s murder trial, set to begin in January, pending the results of a competency evaluation, court documents released Thursday reveal.
Vallow, who is accused of killing her two children and collecting their Social Security benefits in 2019, was scheduled to appear in court for a joint murder trial with her husband, Chad Daybell, who faces the same charges as his wife.
“That this case … is hereby suspended until determination of Mrs. Daybell’s competency to stand trial can be determined,” Fremont County Judge Stephen Boyce said in a Thursday court order. “…Accordingly, the Court sees no other alternative at this time than to vacate the January 9, 2023 trial.”
Boyce previously determined Vallow to be competent to stand trial in April after she spent nine months in an Idaho mental health facility.
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Vallow and Daybell are at the center of the bizarre murder case involving not only Vallow’s two children but both Daybell’s and Vallow’s deceased ex-spouses.
However, last week, Daybell filed requests to sever their cases. He initially filed a motion to separate his case from his wife’s in 2021, which the court denied in March, citing three potential sources for prejudice. The murder suspect’s lawyers argued that the court’s reasoning was an incorrect application of Idaho law.
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His attorneys are arguing that a joint trial is unfair in this case because prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Vallow, which may result in prejudice against Daybell. Additionally, his lawyers state that the defendant will not be able to present a “complete defense” in a joint trial, among other conflicts.
Daybell’s counsel is also asking for his trial date to be pushed back from January 2023 “due to the substantial amount of trial investigation and preparation and significant amount of discovery” that they say has still not been provided to the defense by prosecutors.
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Vallow’s two children, 7-year-old Joshua “J.J.” Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, were killed in September 2019. Vallow and Daybell have been accused of collecting Social Security benefits with their information between Oct. 1, 2019, and Jan. 22, 2020.
The children were missing for several months — police say the couple lied about the children’s whereabouts and then slipped away to Hawaii — before their bodies were found buried on Daybell’s property in rural Idaho.
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The couple was indicted in late May 2021 on multiple counts each of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft by deception, first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder related to the deaths of Tylee; J.J.; and Daybell’s ex-wife, officials announced at the time. Arizona officials in June 2021 also indicted Vallow in the July 2019 murder of her ex-husband, Charles Vallow.
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The case has garnered national attention and inspired various crime television episodes and documentaries. Netflix most recently released the documentary series “Sins of our Mother” about Vallow and her life before the alleged crimes on Sept. 14.
Daybell has written several apocalyptic novels based loosely on Mormon theology. Both were involved in a group that promotes preparedness for the biblical end times. Meanwhile, Vallow reportedly believed she was “a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ’s second coming in July 2020,” according to divorce documents that her late ex-husband, Charles Vallow, filed before his death.