Chad and Lori Daybell to Appear in Courtroom With Plexiglass, Social Distancing Amid COVID-19 Crisis: Judge

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Chad and Lori Vallow Daybell will both appear in court in person in August amid the coronavirus pandemic, the judge presiding over their cases has ruled. The couple faces felony charges in connection with the disappearance and deaths of Lori's two children, Joshua "JJ" Vallow and Tylee Ryan

"The defendant has a right to be present during the preliminary hearing," Judge Faren Eddins wrote in his findings. "The defendant has a right to confront and cross examine witnesses in person. In order to preserve an adequate recording of the proceeding and to preserve the defendant’s rights, the defendant must be present in the courtroom with [their] attorney."

Attendees will practice social distancing in the hearing room, and "protective Plexiglas has been installed along the bench and witness stand to protect the health of all hearing participants," Eddins added. 

Eddins has both previously presided over several remote hearings in Chad and Lori's cases via Zoom amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Idaho recently saw its largest single-day increase in cases, and to date, the state has more than 9,400 confirmed cases and more than 100 confirmed deaths, according to its health department's website

Chad will appear in court in person on Aug. 3 and Aug. 4, according to court records, and Lori will appear in court in person the following week, on Aug. 10 and Aug. 11. Both hearings will be held before Judge Eddins. 

Lori is facing two felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence  in Fremont County, Idaho, as well as misdemeanor charges of resisting and obstructing an officer, solicitation of a crime and contempt in Madison County. 

Chad has been charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence, as well as two felony charges of willfully destroying, concealing or altering evidence after JJ and Tylee's remains were found on his property in June. 

The conspiracy charges each carry a penalty of up to 5 years in prison or up to $10,000 in fines. Both Chad and Lori are being held on $1 million bond and have pleaded not guilty. The couple denies all allegations of wrongdoing, and neither Lori's attorney, Mark Means, nor Chad's attorneys, John Prior, responded to Inside Edition Digital's requests for comment. 

Tylee was last seen Sept. 8 at Yellowstone National Park and JJ was last seen at home Sept. 22, according to an affidavit of probable cause written by Lt. Ron Ball of the Rexburg Police Department, the lead detective on the case. Investigators now believe JJ and Tylee were buried on Chad's property within hours of the times they were last seen, according to the affidavit.

Investigators executing a search warrant on Chad's property on June 9 found a body wrapped in plastic and duct tape buried near the pond that autopsy results confirmed was JJ, according to the affidavit. 

Investigators then found "bones, charred tissue and charred bones" near the fire pit and pet cemetery on Chad's property, which autopsy results confirmed belonged to Tylee, according to the affidavit. 

Prosecutor Rob Wood has previously stated in court documents that he may call 48 witnesses in his case against Lori, including Chad. 

Under Idaho law, confidential communication between spouses is not considered legally privileged if it is related to a criminal action or "a communication relevant to an issue concerning the physical, mental or emotional condition of or injury to a child, or concerning the welfare of a child." 

Among the other potential witnesses on the prosecutor's list are members of the Rexburg Police Department, the Kauai Police Department, the FBI, the National Park Service and teachers and administrators from JJ's school district. 

The prosecutor's list also includes Lori and Chad's former friend Melanie Gibb, who was thrust into the spotlight after the affidavit of probable cause in the case revealed she was the Arizona woman Lori told police in Idaho JJ was staying with when they came to perform a welfare check at Lori's home on Nov. 26. 

JJ's biological grandparents, Kay and Larry Woodcock, are also on the prosecutor's list. They are the ones who first asked police to perform the welfare check after not speaking with JJ for weeks. The Woodcocks have attended nearly every hearing, including the virtual Zoom hearing in which the new felony charges against Lori were read. Kay previously told Inside Edition Digital she plans to be there every time she is allowed to. 

"Any time there is a court hearing, we're going to be there," Kay told Inside Edition Digital. "I want to haunt her if I can. I want her to see me in her sleep. She's going to have to talk at some point."

Lori's niece, Melani Pawlowski, her current husband, Ian Pawlowski, and her ex-husband, Brandon Boudreaux, are all also among the potential witnesses listed by the state, as is Lori's oldest son, Colby Ryan. Colby and his wife, Kelsee, also attended the recent Zoom hearing in which the new charges were read.

A Hawaiian minister, Rev. Colin Moore, also known as Kahu Coco, is also among the potential witnesses. Chad and Lori wed on the beach in Hawaii on Nov. 5. 

Separately, Lori and Chad are currently under investigation by the Idaho Attorney General's office for "conspiracy, attempted murder and/or murder" in the death of Chad's first wife, Tammy, who died weeks before the couple married. 

The Rexburg Police Department asks anyone with information regarding the case to contact them at 208-359-3000. 

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