Day one of Chad Daybell’s preliminary hearing took place on Aug. 3 at 9 a.m. in Fremont county.
The purpose was to determine probable cause and if there is enough evidence to continue with a jury trial. The case will transfer from magistrate court to district court if Judge Faren Eddin verifies probable cause.
Rob Wood representing the state of Idaho accompanied by Spencer Rammell presented witnesses and evidence before Eddins of Fremont county. Chad Daybell and his attorney, John Prior, were also present. Due to coronavirus concerns the hearing remained closed to the public. Only family members and witnesses were permitted in the courtroom.
Wood opened his case with a direct examination to Ray Hermosillo who is a detective for the Rexburg Police Department. He has been the lead detective for this case and was present during the initial welfare check on JJ Vallow.
Hermosillo gave testimony of his role in the investigation including search warrants served and evidence found on the Daybells’ property. Hermosillo also testified of the child protection court order against Lori Daybell and her arrest for the desertion of children; felonies she was initially charged with, in February.
During the search of Chad Daybell’s property on June 9, Hermosillo reported that an Evidence Recovery Team was present with dogs to inspect the property. There was a specific area of interest under a tree that Hermosillo said was covered by about a 4-by-2 foot piece of sod.
After removing sod covering the area, then digging up topsoil, rocks and paneling, Hermosillo immediately knew it was a decomposing body because of the smell.
Larry Woodcock, JJ’s grandfather was seen wiping away tears as the discovery of JJ’s body was discussed in the courtroom.
During Prior’s cross-examination of Hermosillo, he established that there are five houses surrounding Chad Daybell’s house.
Wood also questioned Lt. Ron Ball with the Rexburg Police Department and Winn Hill, BYU-Idaho’s dean of students.
Hill was questioned to establish that Tylee Ryan was never a student of BYU-Idaho, which Lori Daybellclaimed she was. David Stubbs, a police detective for the Rexburg Police Department, revealed the phone location of Alex Cox, Lori Daybell’s brother, near Chad Daybell’s property and Lori Daybell’s apartment on several specific dates.
Stubbs initially contacted Lori Daybell for the welfare check of JJ. During the contact, he wore a body camera. Wood presented that video as an exhibit to the court. It showed Lori Daybell referring to Chad Daybell as one of Cox’s friends as well as her saying that JJ was with her friend, Melanie Gibbs, in Arizona.
The final witness for the first day of the hearing was Gibbs, a friend of the Daybells. She stated being caught off guard by a phone call from Chad Daybell on Nov. 26, 2019.
“Hi, Melanie, this is Chad. The Rexburg police are going to call you, don’t pick up,” Gibbs reported as the content of the phone call with Chad Daybell.
She told the court that she asked Chad Daybell if JJ was home in which he responded, “No.” Later that day, Gibbs said that Lori Daybell made contact with her requesting that she take a random photo of children to make it look like JJ was with her.
Gibbs told the court that on Dec. 8, 2019, she decided to call Chad and Lori Daybell and ask them why they lied to the police. That phone call was recorded and presented by Wood as an exhibit for evidence.
“I believe you have been very decided by Satan,” Gibbs responded to Chad and Lori Daybell in a phone call. “I believe he has tricked you.”
Gibbs said the Daybells told her they were hiding JJ.
So far in the hearing, Wood presented 19 exhibits and questioned five witnesses. The remainder of Chad Daybell’s preliminary hearing will occur tomorrow, on Aug. 4, beginning at 9 a.m., and will begin with Prior’s cross-examination of Gibbs.
Lori Daybell’s probable cause preliminary hearing will take place in Fremont county on Aug. 10 at 9 a.m. where it will be decided if there is sufficient evidence for a jury trial for her charges.