Idaho judge suspends murder trial of Lori Vallow

FILE - Lori Vallow Daybell, center, sits between her attorneys for a hearing at the Fremont...
FILE - Lori Vallow Daybell, center, sits between her attorneys for a hearing at the Fremont County Courthouse in St. Anthony, Idaho, on Aug. 16, 2022.(Tony Blakeslee/East Idaho News via AP, Pool, File)
Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 3:53 PM MST
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BOISE, IDAHO (3TV/CBS 5/AP) — The murder trial of Lori Vallow, the so-called “Doomsday Mom,” is now on hold due to questions about her mental state. In court documents released on Thursday, Idaho District Judge Steven W. Boyce suspended the case until Vallow’s competency can be determined, and her January 2023 trial has been vacated. It came a few days after Vallow’s defense attorneys asked that the case be paused. The documents detailing the request were sealed, and a short hearing on the matter was closed to the public.

Vallow’s competency has been an issue since the case started. In May 2021, a licensed clinical psychologist found Vallow incompetent to stand trial, and she was put in a mental health facility to be treated. She was found still unfit to stand trial the following September. But in April, a judge ruled her competency had been restored, and the case was allowed to move forward. The former Valley mother and her husband, Chad Daybell, are accused of killing her two children, 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and Daybell’s first wife, Tammy Daybell. The bodies of the two kids were found in Chad’s backyard in Idaho in June 2020.

Thursday’s ruling may impact Chad as well. He and Lori were co-defendants, so he was going to be tried in January alongside his wife. However, Chad’s lawyers filed a motion in late September to have his trial postponed and be separate from Lori’s. Both face the death penalty if convicted. In October 2020, Boyce combined Chad and Lori’s trials. Both Lori and Chad have pleaded not guilty to the charges. The strange details of the case have drawn attention from around the world.

Prosecutors say the couple promoted unusual religious beliefs to further the alleged murder conspiracies. Lori’s former husband, Charles Vallow, died while the two were estranged but had said in divorce documents that Lori believed she was a god-like figure responsible for ushering in the apocalyptical end times. Chad wrote doomsday-focused fiction books and recorded podcasts about preparing for the apocalypse. Friends of the couple told law enforcement investigators the pair believed people could be taken over by dark spirits and that Lori referred to her children as “zombies,” a term they used to describe those who were possessed.

Lori is also charged with conspiracy to commit murder in Arizona in connection with the death of Charles Vallow. Her previous husband was shot and killed by Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, who said it was self-defense. Cox later died of what police said were natural causes. The Arizona legal proceedings are on hold while the Idaho case is underway, and Lori has not been scheduled to make a plea in the Arizona case.