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Judge denies removal of prosecutor from Daybell case

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A hearing to decide whether special prosecutor Rob Wood will be dismissed from the cases of Chad and Lori Daybell is underway in Idaho Wednesday. (Photo: KUTV)

A Fremont County judge denied a motion Friday to remove special prosecutor Rob Wood from Chad and Lori Daybell's criminal cases.

East Idaho News reports Lori's attorney Mark Means and Chad's attorney John Prior accused special prosecutor Rob Wood of misconduct with material witnesses.

In the joint motion filed last month, the defense attorneys accused Wood of allegedly trying to “coerce, unduly influence, coach, and or intimidate” Lori Daybell's sister Summer Shiflet, a material witness, and having an inappropriate discussion about the case with Lori's sister-in-law, Zulema Pastenes, another material witness. The recordings were made at an Arizona police station in October.

The recordings were played during the hearing on Wednesday.

Wood is heard talking about filing conspiracy to commit murder charges against the Daybells to the witnesses. “We are not shy about that," he said.

Garrett Smith, the attorney for Shiflet Pastenes, said it was inappropriate for Wood to have discussed the death penalty and possible murder charges for Lori Daybell. Smith said he thought it was within his ethics to record the conversation because he was "bothered by it to the point where I called Mr. Means and said you need to be aware of a few things."

Wood is heard telling witnesses that Chad Daybell is "extremely manipulative."

“I’m not going to say he’s highly intelligent," he said. "He did not care who died, who got hurt. He did not care at all.”

During the meeting, Wood also discussed his his LDS faith and appeared to allege Chad Daybell was the instigator of the plot that allegedly led to the deaths of Lori Daybell's children.

Wood continued, “We have enough to prosecute him, the case against your sister is stronger."

During Wednesday's hearing, Wood maintained that he had done nothing wrong.

Wood requested an expedited hearing to address the allegations and maintained his innocence. He said Shiflet and Pastenes' personal legal counsels were with them during the interviews and no objections were made during his questioning.

“At all times, the Madison County Prosecutor’s Office has acted in accordance with the Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct and has strived to seek justice in this case while acting in accordance with its duty to protect the rights of the Defendants, Chad and Lori Daybell,” the prosecutor’s office stated in court documents, as reported by the Rexburg Standard Journal.

Two days later, Judge Steven Boyce denied the motion.

"Without knowing whether or not this witness will ever be called to testify at a trial, I cannot find at this time that the interaction between Mr. Wood and the witness would render Mr. Wood's continued participation in this case unfair, and cannot determine that the prosecutor's pre-trial activity will be a material issue," Boyce said. "In this case, for those reasons then, the motion is denied."

Lori and Chad Daybell's trial is scheduled for July 12, 2021, and is anticipated to last several weeks.

The Daybells are charged with felonies related to conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration, or concealment of evidence after the bodies of 7-year-old Joshua "JJ" Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan were found buried on Chad's property in Salem, Idaho.

Chad Daybell was arrested in June, the day the bodies were found. Lori Daybell has been incarcerated since February, related to her children's disappearance after they had not been seen alive since September.

Here's a condensed timeline of events:

  • August 2019: Lori Daybell and children move to Idaho
  • September 2019: JJ and Tylee go missing
  • October 2019: Chad Daybell'swife Tammy dies
  • November 2019: Lori and Chad Daybell marry in Idaho. Police conduct a welfare check at Chad Daybell's home for JJ at the request of his grandmother. Chad and Lori Daybell leave Idaho.
  • December 2019: Nationwide search ensues for the children
  • January 2020: Chad and Lori Daybell found in Hawaii
  • February 2020: Lori Daybell is served with a court order to produce her children. After failing to produce her children, Lori Daybell is arrested on multiple charges.
  • March 2020: Lori Daybell is extradited back to Idaho.
  • June 2020: The remains of JJ and Tylee are found buried on Chad Daybell's Idaho property. He is arrested and charged.

The couple has pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

Individuals charged in complaints are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court.