Idaho judge in Lori Vallow, Chad Daybell murder cases bars cameras from courtroom: 'A great risk'

Photographers captured so-called 'cult mom' Lori Vallow smiling in and outside an Idaho courtroom last month

An Idaho judge has barred the media from recording and taking photographs during Lori Vallow's and Chad Daybell's joint murder trial in January, according to court documents.

Judge Steven Boyce's decision came weeks after photographers captured the so-called "cult mom," who is accused of killing her children in 2019 and collecting social security benefits in her son's name after their deaths, smiling in and outside a Fremont County courtroom during an August hearing as Vallow's counsel argued to split up her charges.

"The Court determines herein that continued visual coverage of this case poses great risk to the fair administration of justices in this case, and co-defendant Chad Daybell’s companion case, which cases are joined for trial," Boyce wrote in his Sept. 23 decision. "Therefore, continued visual coverage will no longer be permitted."

Vallow, 49, and Daybell, her 54-year-old husband, are scheduled to appear in court for their joint trial on Jan. 9 in Ada County.

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Attorneys for Vallow Daybell, a mom charged with conspiring to kill her children and then steal their social security benefits, asked a judge on Aug. 16 to send the case back to a grand jury. 

Attorneys for Vallow Daybell, a mom charged with conspiring to kill her children and then steal their social security benefits, asked a judge on Aug. 16 to send the case back to a grand jury.  (Tony Blakeslee/East Idaho News)

Vallow's two children, 7-year-old Joshua "J.J." Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, were killed in September 2019. Vallow has been accused of collecting Social Security benefits with their information between Oct. 1, 2019, and Jan. 22, 2020.

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She and Daybell were indicted in late May 2021 on multiple counts each of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft by deception, first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder related to the deaths of Tylee; J.J.; and Chad Daybell's ex-wife, officials announced at the time. Arizona officials in June 2021 also indicted Vallow in the July 2019 murder of her ex-husband, Charles Vallow.

Lori Vallow Daybell smiled in and outside of an Idaho courthouse on Aug, 16.

Lori Vallow Daybell smiled in and outside of an Idaho courthouse on Aug, 16. (Tony Blakeslee/East Idaho News)

The case has garnered national attention and inspired various crime television episodes, documentaries and so on. Netflix most recently released the documentary series "Sins of our Mother" about Vallow and her life before the alleged crimes on Sept. 14.

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"The Court has previously been made aware and continues to be informed that documentaries, dramatizations and fictionalized movies focusing on the Defendants and allegations in this case have already been produced and continue to be disseminated to the public," Boyce wrote.

As a result, the court is "very concerned that continued visual coverage of this case will impede the ability of the parties to select fair and unbiased jurors" in a case that has not been tried yet, according to Boyce.

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"The Court will not risk the loss of seated jurors who may intentionally or inadvertently review the very trial proceedings they are sworn to decide, where those jurors must make their decision only upon the evidence presented at trial," he wrote. "The Court will not risk the potential loss of State or Defense witnesses who may intentionally or inadvertently become tainted by viewing the trial proceedings before they testify, assuming their exclusion from the proceedings, as is regularly ordered for material witnesses."

Lori and Chad Daybell are accused of killing 17-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old J.J. Vallow in 2019.

Lori and Chad Daybell are accused of killing 17-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old J.J. Vallow in 2019. (Rexberg Police Department)

He added that the four is also "concerned that at trial the added and unnecessary pressure witnesses and counsel will be subject to, knowing their every expression, utterance and appearance will be captured and circulated without their control in perpetuity, is unwarranted and will likely interfere with the fair administration of justice in this case."

Vallow and Daybell are at the center of a tangled case that involves a bizarre apocalyptic religious belief that prosecutors claim the couple designed to justify the murders.

The children were missing for several months — when police say the couple lied about the children’s whereabouts and then slipped away to Hawaii — before their bodies were found buried on Chad Daybell's property in rural Idaho.

Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell are at the center of a tangled case that involves a bizarre apocalyptic religious belief that prosecutors claim the couple designed to justify the murders.

Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell are at the center of a tangled case that involves a bizarre apocalyptic religious belief that prosecutors claim the couple designed to justify the murders. (Rexburg Police Department)

The state is seeking the death penalty in Vallow's case due to the "aggravating circumstances" leading to her alleged crimes.

The pair is at the center of a bizarre case full of twists and turns that involve apocalyptic religious beliefs that prosecutors say motivated the couple to justify the murders of Vallow's children. 

Daybell has written several apocalyptic novels based loosely on Mormon theology. Both were involved in a group that promotes preparedness for the biblical end times. Meanwhile, Vallow reportedly believed she was "a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ’s second coming in July 2020," according to divorce documents that her late ex-husband, Charles Vallow, filed before his death.

Lori Vallow and her husband, Chad Daybell, are facing murder charges in the deaths of Vallow's two children and their former spouses.

Lori Vallow and her husband, Chad Daybell, are facing murder charges in the deaths of Vallow's two children and their former spouses. (The Associated Press)

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J.J. and Tylee were missing for several months — when police say the couple lied about the children’s whereabouts and then slipped away to Hawaii — before their bodies were found buried on Chad Daybell's property in rural Idaho.

The state is seeking the death penalty in Vallow's case due to the "aggravating circumstances" leading to her alleged crimes. Vallow's attorneys are asking for a probable cause hearing to discuss the alleged "aggravating circumstances" as well as the conspiracy charges.

Fox News' Stephanie Pagones contributed to this report.