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Daybell trial pushed back, Lori Vallow still mentally unfit, judge finds

An Idaho couple charged with murder in the deaths of two children appeared in court Wednesday.
Credit: KTVB
A composite image of Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow.

FREMONT COUNTY, Idaho — The trial for an Idaho husband and wife charged in the deaths of two children will be delayed once more, a judge ruled Wednesday. 

Both Lori Vallow and her husband Chad Daybell are charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, grand theft by deception, grand theft, and insurance fraud in the deaths of 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old JJ Vallow, Vallow's children from previous relationships. The children's bodies were found buried in Daybell's yard in June 2020. 

Daybell is also accused of murdering his late wife Tammy Daybell, who was found dead in their shared home weeks before his marriage to Vallow.

Vallow, who allegedly told friends that her children had become "zombies" or inhabited with evil spirits, was ruled unfit to stand trial several months ago. Judge Steven Boyce extended that designation Wednesday after receiving a report outlining the suspect's response to her mental health treatment.

"Based on the progress report the court has received and the information from the Department of Health and Welfare, the court does find and determine at this time that, pursuant to Idaho Code 18-212, the defendant Ms. Vallow is still not competent to proceed with the proceedings in this case," Boyce said.

Vallow's case will be essentially on pause for an additional 180 days, unless another progress report indicates earlier that her competency has been restored, the judge ruled. 

Idaho does not have a so-called insanity defense: Someone ruled mentally unfit is typically held in jail, the state hospital, or an Idaho Department of Correction facility where they receive treatment for their mental health issues. 

If, over the course of that treatment, evaluators decide a suspect has regained competency, the case will move forward to trial.

Daybell, who was originally set to go to trial Nov. 8, will also have his case pushed back, the judge said. The defendant earlier waived his right to a speedy trial, and neither his lawyer nor the prosecution objected to more time before the trial begins. 

Boyce pointed to the multitude of motions filed in the case, saying he thought it would be "impractical" to proceed to trial in just two months.

"That's just the reality of where we are in this process," he said. "I know there is a lot of discovery and probably significant motions that need to be heard." 

The new date for Daybell's trial has not yet been set. 

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