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Here's what to expect during Lori Vallow's sentencing

Ultimately, the decision on the punishment is up to Judge Boyce, but a former prosecutor says it's unlikely Vallow will get anything less than a life sentence.
Credit: AP
Lori Vallow Daybell stands and listens as the jury's verdict is read at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise, Idaho on Friday May 12, 2023. The Idaho jury convicted Daybell of murder in the deaths of her two youngest children and a romantic rival, a verdict that marks the end of a three-year investigation that included bizarre claims of zombie children, apocalyptic prophesies and illicit affairs. (AP Photo/Kyle Green)

ST ANTHONY, Idaho — Lori Vallow Daybell, or Lori Vallow -- the eastern Idaho woman found guilty of murdering her two children and conspiring to murder her husband’s former wife -- is scheduled to be sentenced at 9 a.m. on July 31 at the Fremont County Courthouse. 

What can be expected?

Vallow will not face the death penalty, but she could face up to life in prison for murdering her two children, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan, and taking their security benefits. The two were found buried in shallow graves on Vallow’s husband’s property in Salem in June of 2020. 16-year-old Tylee Ryan's remains were found in charred, burnt pieces. 7-year-old JJ Vallow was found suffocated and bound in duct tape.

During Vallow’s sentencing, four people are expected to give victim impact statements, or statements about how the crimes affected their family and their lives. Those who wanted to give impact statements at the sentencing had to submit a request – under Idaho law, the only people allowed to give victim impact statements during a sentencing have to be immediate family members of the murder victim(s).

Vallow’s only surviving child, 27-year-old Colby Ryan, is expected to speak along with Summer Shiflet, who is Vallow’s sister. 

Kay Woodcock, the grandmother of JJ Vallow, is also expected to give a statement in court. 

Vallow was also convicted of conspiring to murder her husband Chad Daybell’s wife at the time, Tammy Daybell. Her aunt, Vicki Hoban, will likely give a victim impact statement at the time of sentencing. 

The defense – Jim Archibald and John Thomas – will have an opportunity to speak on behalf of Vallow. It is likely that the prosecutors or defense will bring up contents from the presentence investigation (PSI) report, which is put together in order to recommend incarceration, type of treatment or programs she should complete while in prison. These are conducted by the Idaho Department of Correction’s Probation and Parole.

A presentence investigation must be ordered by the judge. Fremont County District Judge Steven Boyce signed off ordering a full report on May 24, 12 days after Vallow was convicted.

Former Ada County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Jean Fisher told KTVB the presentence investigation is a very important part of this case considering how heinous the crimes were.

"Just the psychological evaluation itself takes a period of time. The presentence investigator is going to look into her entire background, her history, they will have contacted prior family members, other family members, prior employers, and they are trying to get as big of a picture as they can about who Lori Vallow is in order to try and determine what the sentencing should be in this case. It's a very, very lengthy extensive report," Fisher said.

Under Idaho Criminal Rules, a full PSI must include:

  • Prior criminal record
  • Social history, family relationships, marital status, age, interests, activities
  • Educational background
  • Employment background, present employment
  • Residence history
  • Financial status
  • Health status
  • Sense of values and “outlook on life”
  • Results of any substance abuse evaluation, mental health evaluation, domestic assault evaluation and or psychosexual evaluation 
  • The presentence investigator’s analysis of the defendant’s condition, which would be a complete summary of the psychological factors surrounding the commission of the crime. The analysis would also include a recommendation about any type of rehabilitation

The defense is able to use information from the presentence analysis to show a judge that Vallow deserves a lesser sentence. Because she was found mentally incompetent to stand trial in May of 2021, it's possible the defense could bring up Vallow's mental health as a reason she should not receive maximum prison time.

Fisher said that she believes a judge will absolutely take Vallow's mental health into consideration when sentenced.

"They're always looking for sentencing guidelines and criteria that include some punishments and retribution, and mental health is a very important part of that. We know that Lori Vallow had been declared incompetent for a period of time during the pretrial in this case, but then she was able to withstand and make it through the trial. That is important to the court," Fisher said. "At this point, her competency has been determined and she will go forward in this."

Vallow also can't be sentenced to a state hospital, even if the judge decides she could have mental health issues. 

According to an Idaho Department of Correction spokesperson, that has never happened, and the agency typically does not transfer prison residents to state hospitals because IDOC has in-house treatment plans.

But, according to Idaho Code 66-335, it is possible that mentally ill prison residents can be admitted into state institutions if they meet the regulations provided by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

When the victim impact statements and arguments have concluded, Judge Boyce will ask Vallow if she would like to make a statement. Once she finishes her statement or declines to speak, the judge can then issue his own statement and sentence Vallow to her term in prison.

Ultimately, the decision on the punishment is up to Judge Boyce, but Fisher says it's unlikely Vallow will get anything less than a fixed life sentence.

"People who who have a mental illness, if that's indeed what she has... It continues to make her a greater threat if she were to be out in the in the community because she can't control her behavior, or is so fixated on what it is that she believes religiously, that she cannot be trusted... And I think that the judge is going to think about that very seriously," Fisher said.

She also stated that the judge can take into consideration what the family members want, the impact of the murders on those family members and the nature of the case itself.

"Because of the ages of the children, but then the nature in which they were murdered in particularly heinous ways and the way that they were buried..." Fisher said. "It will be a big part of what he considers."

Reporter and anchor Shirah Matsuzawa and crime and investigative reporter Alexandra Duggan will be reporting from the courtroom on the day of the sentencing. Follow Shirah on Twitter at @ShirahKTVB, Alex on Twitter @dugganreports, and stay tuned on KTVB for updates.

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