SALT LAKE CITY — A judge in Idaho has paused a criminal case against Lori Vallow Daybell after an evaluation found that she is not competent to face charges tied to the disappearance of her two children.
The development in that state comes as police in Arizona are recommending that Daybell face a new charge of conspiring to murder a fourth person — her former husband Charles Vallow. Just this week, a grand jury in Idaho indicted Daybell and her new husband in the death of his former wife and in the killings of her two kids in a case involving their reported doomsday religious beliefs.
Authorities revisited the deaths of Lori Vallow Daybell's and Chad Daybell's former spouses after the September 2019 disappearance of Joshua "JJ" Vallow and his sister, Tylee Ryan.
The pair is charged with murder of the two children and conspiracy in all three deaths, but only Chad Daybell is accused of murder in his former wife Tammy Daybell's death.
Detectives in Idaho's rural Fremont County started to investigate her October 2019 death as suspicious. Hundreds of miles away, police in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler probed the death of Charles Vallow, shot and killed by Lori Daybell's late brother Alex Cox in what he said was self-defense in July 2019.
Cox died of a blood clot in Arizona later that year. Before his death, cellphone data placed him at the children's Idaho home in the hours after the kids were last seen alive, and then at the sites where their remains were found months later, court documents say.
Police in Chandler passed their files onto the Maricopa County Attorney's Office last month, Sgt. Jason McClimans said, recommending the conspiracy charge. Prosecutors have not yet announced any decision, and Lori Daybell's defense attorney Mark Means didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Idaho proceeding that's currently on hold is separate from the murder case and based on charges that the Daybells worked together to keep the children's remains hidden.
In that case, Judge Steven Boyce issued a stay, citing the psychological review that recommended treatment.
"The evaluation was ordered after the defendant's fitness to proceed was drawn into question by counsel," Boyce wrote in the written order. He noted prosecutors are contesting the findings and said the case will remain on pause until it's determined whether Daybell is fit to stand trial.
Boyce didn't immediately schedule a hearing, court records indicate.
Competency in the legal sense refers to whether a defendant can understand the case and help attorneys prepare a defense.
The development came nearly a year after the remains of two Idaho children were found in Chad Daybell's yard. The couple have been jailed for about a year awaiting trial on the earlier charges alleging they kept the kids' bodies hidden.
The children vanished around the time of Tylee's 17th birthday in September 2019. JJ was 7 years old at the time.
According to authorities, the Daybells believe their mission includes leading the "144,000" and ridding "the world of 'zombies.''' Chad Daybell is an author of several novels based on apocalyptic scenarios.
Contributing: Paul Nelson, KSL NewsRadio; Garna Mejia, KSL TV