Lone holdout juror in Lori Vallow trial reveals why he changed his mind to convict her: ‘I put a face to evil’

Questions about timeline initially held back conviction of ‘strangely stoic’ Vallow but Hernandez was ‘disgusted’ by beach wedding photos after deaths of children

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Wednesday 17 May 2023 14:46 BST
Related video: Lori Vallow indicted following murder conviction

The last juror to vote to convict Lori Vallow of all charges in her trial for the murders of her children and husband’s late wife has spoken out.

In an ABC News exclusive interview that aired on Good Morning America on Wednesday, Saul Hernandez, one of the 12 jurors out of a panel of 18 including six alternates, gave his account of their deliberations.

Mr Hernandez was the lone holdout on the panel before ultimately switching his stance on day two of deliberations to find Vallow guilty of all charges.

On Friday 12 May, Vallow was found guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy and grand theft over the deaths of her daughter Tylee Ryan, 16, son Joshua “JJ” Vallow, seven, and of conspiracy to murder Tammy Daybell, 49, her new husband Chad Daybell’s first wife, at Ada County Courthouse in Boise, Idaho.

Tylee and JJ were last seen in September 2019. In June 2020, their remains were found buried in shallow graves on the Daybell property. Tammy died one month after their disappearance in October 2019 and her death was later ruled a homicide by asphyxiation.

Over six weeks, prosecutors argued that Vallow conspired with Mr Daybell and her brother Alex Cox to kill the three victims, motivated by greed and their doomsday cult beliefs.

Of the experience of being on the jury, Mr Hernandez said: “I don’t think as a human being you are ever really prepared to experience this.”

Asked why he had initially held out on convicting Vallow, he explained: “I just didn’t feel like at that timeline with Tylee [Vallow] we were quite there yet, and if we were, I perhaps was missing it.”

Speaking about the bizarre religious beliefs that appear to have partially underpinned the motive for the murders and if the defendant had really believed them, Mr Hernandez said of Vallow: “I think she started with maybe curiosity, exploring what her initial beliefs were. And once Chad came into the picture, she went along with it.”

Mr Hernandez told ABC News that he otherwise found Vallow “strangely stoic” during the six-week trial.

Asked what went through his mind when the court was shown pictures of Vallow and Mr Daybell dancing on a beach in Hawaii at their wedding while her children were buried in his backyard, Mr Hernandez said: “I was disgusted. I didn’t want to look at them. I just couldn’t believe how someone could be that happy when your kids are in the ground and the person that was key in all of this is sitting across from you, smiling at you, and dancing with you on a beach.”

Chillingly, Mr Hernandez said: “As the case progressed, as the evidence came to light, testimony was shared, it was harder to look at her. Growing up, we’re taught good and bad, God and evil, and I think for the first time in my life, I put a face to evil.”

Earlier, an alternate juror broke her silence, speaking to Law & Crime. Juror Tiffany, who was not on the final panel of 12 but served as an alternate and was presented with all of the evidence over the course of the six-week trial, said she felt she could be impartial based on her experience in the military as a neutral person who does not judge people right away.

She also admitted to not knowing anything about the case going in but was wary of the fact it was centred around the murder of children, being a mother herself. Key to her was watching Vallow’s reaction as the evidence came out — at critical moments, Tiffany said she felt Vallow was “unemotional”.

Tiffany said she would have definitely voted to convict Vallow but added that she would have needed more time to deliberate on Vallow’s involvement in the conspiracy to murder Tammy Daybell.

“I felt pretty solid on the other charges but the one on Tammy Daybell I did not feel solid on. I didn’t feel there was solid evidence for her charge as opposed to the other charges,” she said explaining that the evidence was there but she needed time to talk it over.

Asked if she felt Mr Daybell had killed his wife as prosecutors were suggesting, she replied: “I feel he definitely had a heavier hand in it, I do.”

On the murder of the children, Tiffany said the prosecution’s argument about the money motive — Vallow switched social security payments due to the children to her accounts — was key as they demonstrated she had learned a lesson from the death of her husband when she had not been the beneficiary of his life insurance. It showed she had prepped for the death of Tylee in particular.

Asked if she believed it was Alex Cox who had actually killed the children, Tiffany says she did, noting his finger and palm prints were found on the plastic bag wrapped around JJ, and his cellphone records placed him at the site where the bodies were buried and led the police to find the graves.

Tiffany was sure that Vallow encouraged her Cox to commit crimes but is not sure she knew exactly what happened to the children but was aware they were dead.

Reflecting on two of the most powerful pieces of evidence, Vallow’s jailhouse phone calls with her surviving son Colby Ryan and sister Summer Shiflet, Tiffany says they were tough to hear as there was so much emotion from them but none from Vallow.

Tiffany says she was surprised that there was no defence case to argue that Vallow had been manipulated by Mr Daybell and felt that the closing argument was too little too late.

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