Chad Daybell pleads not guilty to murder; Lori Daybell heads to psychiatric facility

Chad and Lori Daybell are pictured in this Jan. 26, 2020, photo. Chad Daybell pleaded not guilty to charges of murder Wednesday.

Chad and Lori Daybell are pictured in this Jan. 26, 2020, photo. Chad Daybell pleaded not guilty to charges of murder Wednesday. (Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Chad Daybell pleaded not guilty in an Idaho courtroom Wednesday to charges of murder and conspiracy in the deaths of his new wife's two children.

His pleas come a day after a judge issued an order committing his wife, Lori Vallow Daybell, to a psychiatric facility for 90 days as her case remains on pause. A mental health evaluation had determined she is not competent, meaning she cannot properly assist in her own defense or fully understand the case tied to the disappearance of her two children, Joshua "JJ" Vallow and his sister, Tylee Ryan.

Prosecutors had previously indicated they would challenge the psychologist's finding, but they said in court documents filed last week they will not contest the conclusion or a related treatment plan for Lori Daybell.

Her son JJ was 7 at the time he vanished in 2019, and his older sister was just a few weeks shy of her 17th birthday.

A grand jury last month indicted the Daybells on murder charges in a case involving their reported doomsday religious beliefs and the mysterious deaths of their former spouses. Chad Daybell entered not guilty pleas to each of eight counts Wednesday in Idaho's Fremont County. He wore a white shirt and a blue tie as he sat next to his attorney during the brief hearing.

Chad Daybell faces an additional charge of murder in the death of his former wife, Tammy Daybell.

Police in Arizona have recommended to prosecutors that Lori Daybell face a new charge of conspiring to murder her former husband, Charles Vallow, but no formal charges have been filed in that case. Vallow was 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.

The hearing Wednesday comes a year after the remains of the two Idaho children were found in Chad Daybell's yard.

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.

He is charged with three counts each of first-degree murder and conspiring to commit murder and grand theft by deception, in addition to two counts of insurance fraud tied to life insurance policies for Tammy Daybell.

Prosecutors now have 60 days to say whether they will seek the death penalty for Chad Daybell. He returns to court for a hearing on June 23.

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