Chad Daybell children say their mother was tired, suffered 'fainting spells' before she died

Chad Daybell's daughter Emma Murray takes the stand as the defense in the Chad Daybell murder trial began presenting its case Monday.

Chad Daybell's daughter Emma Murray takes the stand as the defense in the Chad Daybell murder trial began presenting its case Monday. (Judge Steven W. Boyce via YouTube)

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BOISE — Eager spectators in the Chad Daybell murder trial packed the court Monday fuller than it has been in the six weeks of trial so far, spilling into the hallways where they sat playing the livestream of the testimony on their phones and eating boxed lunches, all in anticipation of what Daybell's children would say.

The crowds continued to occupy the fourth floor throughout the day, transforming the quiet county building into a kind of dishevelled emergency shelter for murder trial spectators.

The defense began presenting its case with its first two witnesses, Chad Daybell's children Emma Murray and Garth Daybell.

Emma Murray worked with her mother, Tammy Daybell, at the same elementary school and lived nearby with her husband. Garth Daybell, visibly nervous and self-described as "pretty shy," wore a similar haircut, shirt and tie as his father, with a sweater over top. He lived in the house with his parents when his mother died.

The testimony covered a wide range of topics Monday, peppered by objections from state prosecutors.

Children say Tammy Daybell's heath was declining

Murray testified that her mother's health had been declining in the last year or so of her life, and that Tammy Daybell was noticeably more tired, going to bed before dinner on some nights. She spoke of her mother's anemia and claimed that even carrying grocery bags left bruises on her mother's arms.

On cross-examination, Fremont County prosecutor Lindsey Blake asked if Murray would be surprised to learn there was no mention of anemia or sleep apnea in Tammy Daybell's medical records.

Her mother was an extremely private person, Murray said, and never spoke of her health with others.

Defense attorney John Prior asked Murray at length about her mother's physical fitness. She said her mom would shake her arm to get more steps on her Fitbit because she competed with her family to win fitness challenges. Prosecutors earlier in the trial used data from her Fitbit to show her activity was above average until she died.

Garth Daybell testified that he was concerned his mother "was getting tired extremely easily." He told the jury his mother would come home from work and collapse, get winded very easily and experienced "fainting spells" after she had been kneeling for a while.

Previous witnesses have testified that Tammy Daybell, 49, appeared to be healthy in the weeks before her death.

Chad Daybell is on trial for first-degree murder in the death of his wife. He is also charged with killing his new wife Lori Vallow Daybell's children — 7-year-old Joshua "JJ" Vallow, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan, as well as with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder of each of the three victims, grand theft and two counts of insurance fraud. is streaming the trial each day:

Chad Daybell's religious views

Murray described her father's religious views as "fundamental," many of which are not typical of Latter-day Saint beliefs. On one occasion, she described her father exorcising "a being" inside of her that was causing her anxiety. "I felt like there was an actual person trying to control me," she said.

She also testified that her mother regularly ascribed "death percentages" to people, as did her father, and also rated people as "light" or "dark," based on people's motivations or whether they were acting like Jesus Christ or Satan.

Garth Daybell described his father's faith as "traditional," or the way things were 100 years ago. The middle school science teacher testified that there were differences between his faith and his father's faith, including concepts such as evolution versus creationism, and the age of the Earth.

Tammy Daybell's death

On Oct. 18, 2019, the evening before Tammy Daybell's death, Garth Daybell said he was asked to drive into Rexburg to McDonald's, as his mother didn't feel well enough to cook. He dropped the food off, he said, and around 7 p.m. he left her sitting on the couch. "As far as I knew it was a normal night," he testified, adding that he heard snoring from his parents' room that night when he returned from work about 1 a.m.

They were both in bed. I saw their forms, their shapes in the bed as I passed by the room.

–Garth Daybell

"They were both in bed, I saw their forms, their shapes in the bed as I passed by the room," Garth Daybell said.

The next morning, he said he was awakened by his father. "I heard my dad saying, 'Garth, Garth, get up. I need help,'" he said. "I saw her halfway off the bed with her legs still entangled in the blankets."

Murray testified that she went to the house before 7 a.m. that day and described her father as "more distressed than I've ever seen him in my entire life." She testified that she was the one who didn't want an autopsy for her mother, saying her father never expressed an opinion.

"I don't think autopsies should be done on anyone," she said.

Concerning the increase in Tammy Daybell's life insurance policy before her death, Murray testified that the Ballard Insurance Group encouraged teachers at the women's school to increase their life insurance, and they both did so without telling or consulting their husbands. But on cross-examination, prosecutor Lindsey Blake showed the jury life insurance documentation with both Tammy and Chad Daybells' signatures signed on the same date.

Both children said the family was given two options for scheduling their mother's funeral during the week after she died, either Tuesday or Saturday. The funeral director claimed earlier that he had offered Wednesday as a choice.

Missing children

The defense asked about Murray's ability to access the family's computers, as searches for "ssw wind" and "what is the definition of ssw direction" were made on Chad Daybell's account the day Tylee was last seen alive, used to suggest Chad Daybell was planning to burn the child's body the next day.

Murray said she made the internet search for the wind direction on Sept. 8, 2019, at her parents' home. "I was trying to be an amateur meteorologist. ... It was common just to jump on the computer, there wasn't any login or anything," she said.

Blake asked Murray if she had ever asked her father where JJ or Tylee were while police were looking for the missing children. She said she did ask, and Chad Daybell told her, "The children are in a safe place."

Blake played a video in court from the day of Chad Daybell's arrest. He was wearing a green cap and collared shirt, hunched in the cage of a squad car, calmly telling his daughter how to pay the mortgage, family expenses, and car payment before saying, "I'm not coming back." In the courtroom, Murray dabbed her eyes with a tissue watching the scene. is streaming the trial each day. Testimony is scheduled to resume Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.

Friday's testimony:


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