Skip to main content

Judge rejects Lori Vallow Daybell demand to leave court when autopsy photos of her murdered children are shown

Lori Vallow sobs in court as her dead children appear inset

Lori Vallow sobs in court as her dead children, JJ Vallow, on the left, and Tylee Ryan, on the right, appear inset. (Courtroom pool sketch artist; Fremont County Sheriff’s Office)

The judge overseeing accused “cult mom” Lori Vallow Daybell’s triple murder trial denied a request from defense attorneys to waive her presence for the remainder of testimony on Tuesday.

After the daily lunch break in the trial, and just before proceedings were about to reconvene, attorney John Thomas requested additional time to discuss an issue with his client. The request was granted and the court went into recess. At this time, Vallow appeared visibly upset.

Judge Stephen Boyce had scheduled the afternoon session to begin at 12:45 p.m. MST, but that schedule went out the window as the defense team made the request. For roughly an hour, Thomas, fellow attorney Jim Archibald, and the accused murderess conferred about the nature of the upcoming exhibits and their impact on her.

Eventually, the prosecutors left the courtroom after being hailed by the defense and huddled with them beyond reporters’ eyes somewhere behind the judge’s bench. Then both sides came in and left – with a formal 30-minute break called by Judge Boyce.

After that break, a few minutes passed before the state returned – with initially no sign of the defense team. But then Vallow’s attorneys returned; the state left with them again. At one point, deputies were called to the backroom or hallway where all of the attorneys were hashing out the issues and trying to mend the disruption.

At around 1:40 p.m. MST, the legal teams were back in their seats but the defendant was still outside. Five minutes later, Vallow was finally back in court as Thomas made the request on her behalf.

The defendant sought to waive her presence for the remainder of the day, Law&Crime correspondent GiGi McKelvey reported.

There was no secret about the macabre content of testimony and exhibits set to be shown when the trial was suddenly halted. Vallow’s attorneys were well aware of the state’s upcoming presentation – meaning the defendant was also likely aware, at least in a general sense. Several reporters in Ada County had been warned about the graphic nature of the crime scene and autopsy photos planned to be provided to jurors on Tuesday afternoon.

According to Thomas, his client was in a “fragile” mental state and that the morning’s testimony about the discovery of the bodies of the children she is alleged to have killed was “emotional” for her.

Vallow and her fifth and current husband, Chad Daybell, 54, stand accused of murder over the 2019 deaths of Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ashlyn Ryan, 17. The children disappeared on different dates in September of that year. Vallow was initially arrested in Hawaii in February 2020 on charges of child desertion. Daybell was arrested later that year after the children’s bodies were found buried at his property. The two defendants were indicted for the murder of Vallow’s children and Daybell’s first wife, Tammy Daybell, 49, in May 2021. Initially being prosecuted as husband-and-wife co-defendants, the couple’s cases were recently severed and will be tried separately.

More Law&Crime coverage: ‘Money, power, and sex’: Lurid details of how Lori Vallow Daybell’s alleged victims died revealed for the first time

The state argued against the request.

After a terse discussion, the court ruled against the request.

Join the discussion 

Gigi McKelvey contributed to this report.

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime: