Judge severs Chad and Lori Daybell case; 2 trials will be held

Idaho District Judge Steven Boyce has severed the case of Chad and Lori Daybell, the court announced Thursday.

Idaho District Judge Steven Boyce has severed the case of Chad and Lori Daybell, the court announced Thursday. (EastIdahoNews.com)

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ST. ANTHONY, Idaho — District Judge Steven Boyce made a major decision in the Chad and Lori Daybell case on Thursday. He severed the two defendants' cases, and they will now be tried separately.

The couple is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of 7-year-old Joshua "JJ" Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan – two of Lori Vallow Daybell's children – along with Chad Daybell's previous wife, Tammy Daybell.

The separation comes as a result of new DNA testing, which was just given to all parties involved in the criminal case. Since the results came back so close to the April 3 trial date, the defense attorneys for both Chad and Lori Daybell felt there was too little time for additional testing to be done on the sample.

Boyce stated that because the evidence was not given to the defense by the state in a timely manner, and Lori Vallow Daybell has refused to waive her right to a speedy trial, he felt there was no option but to sever the cases.

As a result, Chad Daybell's trial has now been vacated from April 3 and will be rescheduled for a later date. But because Lori has not waived her right to a speedy trial, her court proceeding will continue as scheduled next month.

"I have to balance these rights of these defendants in this case," Boyce said. "Severance is the only option I see."

Boyce expanded on the consequences of the severance, saying Chad Daybell's trial date could be scheduled as far out as six months from now.

"The length of the delay, if I were to continue this, it would be up to Ada County and I don't believe it could be a short delay," Boyce said. "It would have to be more than six months additionally."

'An opportunity to test that evidence'

Thursday's hearing was a continuation of a discussion that began at a hearing on Monday regarding the new DNA evidence, which is hair that was found at the crime scene. During Thursday's hearing, Lori Vallow Daybell appeared in person, and Chad Daybell appeared from jail via Zoom.

John Prior, Chad Daybell's attorney, also attended virtually from his Boise office. Prosecutors Lindsey Blake, Rob Wood, and Rachel Smith were in attendance, along with Jim Archibald, Lori Vallow Daybell's attorney. John Thomas, another of Lori's attorneys, was not present.

Prior noted the importance of this new evidence and how crucial it is for his client to be able to have a fair trial, which would need to be held at a later date.

"That evidence provides, at least from my perspective, an explanation potentially of where Mr. Daybell and I are going to go in this particular case," said Prior. "I need to have an opportunity to test that evidence."

Archibald agreed with Prior, saying that if he were in his shoes, he would do the same thing.

"If my client waived her speedy trial, I would also be asking for extra time. But since she has held that right and held it close to her," said Archibald. "I have to respect that constitutional autonomy that she has."

Both Chad and Lori Daybell have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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