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Onlookers wait with bated breath for a verdict in the Lori Vallow Daybell murder trial

Some reporters in the courtroom who have covered larger murder trials guessed three hours. Others, like members from the public, said at least two days.

BOISE, Idaho — It could be Friday afternoon. It could be a week from now -- no one will know when the 12-person jury in the Lori Vallow Daybell murder trial will reach their verdict, but rest assured, the citizen sleuths, podcasters, reporters and the public have planted their feet in an Ada County courtroom and don't plan on going anywhere.

Jurors went home for the night at about 6:30 p.m. Thursday, and returned to the courthouse Friday morning at 9 a.m. to continue deliberations. People wanting to be present for the verdict lined up outside the courthouse in the early morning -- some even arrived at 4 a.m. in order to save their spot in the courtroom.

After six weeks, the jury has seen roughly 60 testifying witnesses and hundreds of evidence exhibits that Idaho prosecutors have presented in order to prove Lori Vallow is guilty of murder, conspiracy to murder and grand theft in connection to the deaths of her children, Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow, as well as her husband's former wife, Tammy Daybell.

Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood on Thursday afternoon gave his final remarks to the jury, leaving in their minds the last two cents of the state's theory on what really happened in the last four years.

“Use your reason and common sense. The evidence in this case is clear. The evidence in this points to one common thread, and that is Lori Vallow," Wood said. "The defense said she’s not a killer. She is a killer... You must convict her."

Lori Vallow's defense attorney Jim Archibald spent his closing statements telling the jury there is little evidence that ties his client to the crimes.

"No one here thinks Lori actually killed anyone. That's why she's being charged with conspiracy. So they want you to be convinced that she's part of this plan, that there's a specific plan to kill. If you find her guilty, will that bring the kids back? Nope," Archibald said.

Lori Vallow's children went missing in September of 2019 with no word or report to police from her on where they were. Their bodies were later found on Chad Daybell's rural Salem property on June 9, 2020, buried in shallow graves -- Tylee Ryan was dismembered, her remains burned, and JJ Vallow was suffocated with a plastic bag and bound with duct tape. Tammy Daybell was found dead in her home on Oct. 19, 2019, of natural causes, but the State of Utah Medical Examiner later determined she died from homicide by asphyxiation. 

From all around, the audience in the trial has been vast. It's been nearly four years since the children's disappearance, and its intricacies have captured the nation. Media has crowded the front of the Ada County Courthouse in Boise nearly every day, where Lori Vallow's trial was moved from eastern Idaho. One of those media members is Nate Eaton, a reporter from East Idaho News who has covered the case since its infancy.

"It's kind of surreal that it's actually here," Eaton said as he was walking back into the courtroom on Thursday. "It'll be a relief that it's over."

Eaton said he has only been reporting on the case, but his connection isn't as close as the families that have been affected from the tragedies.

"These families have been through so much in the past four years... And, we aren't really done, because we still have Chad's trial. That might take some time. So surreal, right?" Eaton said.

After the jury went into the deliberation room around 2 p.m., the audience began discussing among themselves how long they will take to reach a verdict. Some reporters in the courtroom who have covered larger murder trials guessed three hours. Others, like members from the public, said at least two days just due to the massive amount of evidence the jury has to sift through. One traveler joked that jury deliberations make her so nervous, she wished she had some Valium to take.

Trina Staffon, who is staying in Boise from Idaho Falls, began placing her bets as she sat on the floor outside the courtroom. She has been following the case since day one, she said.

"I think it'll be (Friday), early afternoon," Staffon said. However, she was somewhat unsure on how the verdict will hold up with every charge. "There is evidence for the murder charge, but I don't think it's as strong," she told KTVB.

Sara Beattie, who joined Staffon on the floor waiting for a verdict, said she is hoping it'll be quick, but believes it could take some time with the number of charges that are listed in the indictment.

"I feel like if I was on the jury, there are many counts that seem obvious. But I don't know if they made enough ties to the actual murders. The fraud and conspiracy seems clear, but the murder charge is a question for me," Beattie said. 

The jury could debate until late into the evening if they want to, or could call it a night at the close of the building, at 5 p.m. They could also deliberate into the weekend, but that must be a unanimous decision from the jury themselves. They are monitored by two bailiffs from the courthouse, who are not allowed to instruct the jury on anything or feed them any information.

If the jury has a question, they must pass a note to the bailiff, who will then pass it along to the judge. If the judge can answer it, he will respond. If it requires response from the prosecution or the defense, the judge will hold a hearing on the record.

The jury can find Lori Vallow guilty of any or all charges, if that is what they decide. On the conspiracy charge alone, it could carry a sentence of up to life in prison. 

The jury also does not have to find that Lori Vallow was present for the murder to find her guilty of murder in the first degree -- they only have to conclude that she, in some way, encouraged the killings or commanded someone to kill either or all Tylee Ryan, JJ Vallow and Tammy Daybell. 

The court administration has agreed to send out a mass email when a verdict has been reached. From there, people will have one hour to make it back to the courtroom and get a seat on a first come, first-serve basis.

After four years, this case is nearing its end.

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