ST. ANTHONY, Idaho (ABC4 News) – For the first time in the murder case of Idaho siblings, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan, the public is hearing testimony from witnesses and evidence from prosecutors during Chad Daybell’s preliminary hearing Monday.
Daybell is charged with two felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence. He was arrested on June 9th after the remains of JJ and Tylee were found buried on his property. JJ and Tylee are the children of his new wife, Lori Daybell.
During Monday’s seven-hour hearing, Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood called five witnesses to the stand and presented nearly two dozen pieces of evidence. The evidence included documents, photos, maps, and body camera footage. Judge Faren Eddins ordered that media would not be allowed to show photographs or videos of the evidence.
Witnesses included Rexburg Police Department Det. Ray Hermosillo, Lt. Ron Ball, and Det. David Stubbs as well as BYU-Idaho’s Dean of Students Wynn Hill and Lori Daybell’s former friend, Melanie Gibb.
JJ’s biological grandparents, Kay and Larry Woodcock were present in the courtroom. They were most visibly emotional during Det. Hermosillo’s testimony about witnessing the FBI’s discovery of the children’s remains on June 9th and the medical examiner perform autopsies in Ada County.
“Once they removed some soil, there was a … a black, what I can best describe as a black plastic bag with a round object protruding through the dirt,” he said.
Daybell’s defense attorney, John Prior spent some time questioning the reliability of Wood’s witnesses. He pointed out that detectives didn’t record all of their interactions on body cameras with key players in the investigation and that their recollection from memory may not be completely accurate. Hermosillo said detectives at Rexburg PD are not required to wear body cameras.
During his testimony, Wood played body camera footage from two separate instances of Det. Stubbs’ interaction with Lori Daybell on November 26, 2019. In the videos, Lori is heard telling officers on both occasions that JJ was in Arizona with her friend, Melanie Gibb and that Tylee was a student at BYU-Idaho.
Gibb later testified that Daybell called her and told her not to pick up calls from Rexburg Police. An audio recording of a phone call was later played during the hearing of Gibb confronting Lori Daybell about lying about JJ’s whereabouts. Hill came to the witness stand for a short time to testify that there were no records of Tylee enrolling as a student at BYU-Idaho.
Prior will have the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses and argue their side of the case when the preliminary hearing resumes Tuesday at 9 a.m.
Judge Eddins will ultimately make the decision on whether the case will move forward in state court. If it does, an arraignment will be scheduled and if Daybell pleads not guilty, the case will eventually go before a jury.
Lori Daybell is scheduled to face a judge next week on August 10th.