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Judge denies motions to disqualify prosecutor in Chad, Lori Vallow Daybell case

Attorneys for both Chad and Lori filed motions last year after hearing a controversial recording of prosecutor Rob Wood talking with Lori's sister.

FREMONT COUNTY, Idaho — An Idaho judge ruled Friday against the defenses' motions to remove Special Prosecutor Rob Wood in the Chad and Lori Vallow Daybell case.

Attorneys for both Chad and Lori filed motions last year after hearing a recording of Wood talking with Lori's sister, Summer Shiflet. In court filings, Wood objects to the allegations of misconduct.

After several hours of testimony on Wednesday and closing arguments on Friday, the judge denied the motions.

The 18-minute recording at the center of the hearing was played in a court Wednesday morning. In it, you can hear Wood telling Shiflet that the state plans to file conspiracy to commit murder charges against Lori Vallow Daybell and her husband Chad Daybell.

Both Chad and Lori are in custody in Idaho after investigators found the bodies of Lori's children Tylee and JJ buried in Chad's backyard back in June 2020.  

The children disappeared in September 2019 after Lori moved them from Arizona to Idaho.

Shiflet's Arizona-based attorney, Garrett Smith, testified he was "bothered by" the conversation and contacted Lori's attorney.  

Smith said he used his phone to record the conversation in which he thought was a "meet and greet" between Lori's sister and Wood before she met with investigators at Chandler Police.

In the first minute of the recording, Wood tells Shiflet he plans to file new charges against Chad and Lori.

"We are going to be filing conspiracy to commit murder charges against both Chad and Lori," he tells her. 

"We have enough evidence to prosecute him and we are. The case against your sister is stronger."

Those charges have not been filed as of Friday. Chad and Lori are both currently facing conspiracy to conceal or destroy evidence charges. 

Wood goes on to talk with Shiflet about the case in the recording. He brings up Lori's relationship with Chad Daybell.

"I’m not going to say he’s highly intelligent," Wood says of Chad Daybell. "But you don’t have to be highly intelligent to be highly manipulative."

Smith also testifies he agrees that some of Wood's remarks were "disparaging" Chad Daybell and Lori's attorney Mark Means. 

"Once we file further charges, she will be appointed counsel who will know what they’re doing and our goal is to put together such a case that they’re smart enough to say it’s going to be better to talk," Wood tells Shiflet.

He tells Shiflet, in regards to Lori, "Your sister truly believes everything she's done is done in righteousness." Wood tells Shiflet he is a member of the LDS church and that the crime(s) that were committed had "no basis in the LDS faith."

Chad's attorney argues bringing up religion is inappropriate and could influence Shiflet to favor the state. Wood's attorney objected to some of the questioning about this matter.

"I don’t take any joy in doing anything that’s going to harm her," Shiflet tells Wood. "I don’t take joy in her spending her life in prison. There’s nothing - it hurts to think about her being in there."

Shiflet also asks Wood for an update on Tylee's autopsy. As of Wednesday evening, no autopsy information has been released on Tylee Ryan or JJ Vallow.  

Wood tells Shiflet they may never know Tylee's cause of death because of the "destruction" to her body.

"We hope we’ll find out," Wood says. "We may not."

In the recording, Shiflet also asks about the death penalty. Wood tells her he doesn't want to pursue it but it's not a decision that's been made yet. 

"We really don’t want to," Wood tells Shiflet. "I can tell you that from the bottom of my heart."

The motions to dismiss and change venue that were supposed to be held this week are being rescheduled.  The joint trial from the couple is still scheduled for July 2021.

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