Defense ‘prepared to rest’ in Chad Daybell murder trial; 3 rebuttal witnesses expected

Patrick Eller, a data forensic examiner, testifies on the mountain of digital information he analyzed for the Chad Daybell murder trial on Wednesday.
Patrick Eller, a data forensic examiner, testifies on the mountain of digital information he analyzed for the Chad Daybell murder trial on Wednesday. | Judge Steven W. Boyce via Youtube

The final two witnesses for the defense, two forensic experts, testified Wednesday about digital and DNA evidence, or the lack thereof, used by the prosecution in the murder trial of Chad Daybell in Boise.

Afterward, Judge Steven Boyce cleared the public from the courtroom about 1:40 p.m. Defense attorney John Prior said he was "prepared to rest" his case, and the two teams of litigants discussed witnesses for the prosecutors' rebuttal case.

Boyce overturned a previous motion barring Tammy Daybell's former co-worker, Janice Olsen, from testifying about a conversation over insurance policies. Olsen had previously testified May 1, calling Tammy Daybell "active and healthy," but will be called back to testify about a conversation she had with Tammy Daybell that was relayed to Fremont County sheriff's detective Bruce Mattingly in a recorded interview.

The conversation will likely address Chad Daybell’s involvement in the increase in life insurance taken out shortly before his former wife’s death, after the testimony of Tammy Daybell’s daughter, Emma Murray, “opened the door” for rebuttal testimony, according to the judge. Murray told jurors Monday that Tammy Daybell increased her policy without consulting her husband.

Prior argued that the return of Olsen would start "muddying the waters and creating confusion."

Prosecutors also argued they should be allowed to call Rexburg police detective Ray Hermosillo and Fremont County sheriff’s deputy Colter Cannon back to the stand for rebuttal.

The first to testify Wednesday was Patrick Eller, a data forensic examiner, who said he was given almost 10 terabytes of data to review from cellphone towers, search warrants and device metadata. For reference, he told the jury, digitizing the entire Library of Congress would equate to about 1 terabyte of information.

Prior questioned Eller primarily about the availability of location data that places Daybell on his property during key time periods.

In the days following the disappearance of the two children, Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan, cellphone data showed Lori Vallow Daybell’s brother, Alex Cox, on Chad Daybell’s property. Prior asked, “Do you have any electronic information or data of any kind to suggest Chad Daybell’s device was on the property at the same exact time?” Eller replied, “No.”

Madison County prosecutor Rob Wood, on cross-examination, walked through a presentation showing call logs between Chad Daybell and Alex Cox and device data from the same days in question.

"Are you aware that .... looking at that data placed on the screen right now was how law enforcement found Tylee Ryan?" Wood asked. Eller said Chad Daybell used multiple phones, but no geolocation data was found associated with those devices.

Eller said someone can prevent geolocation data from being collected by adjusting many of the settings on a device and the applications in use or by turning a device off.

Forensic DNA expert Dr. Greg Hampikian took the stand to discuss his independent review of documents and electronic files, lab records, tests and reports pertaining to biological evidence collected in the case.

He said the controls and experiment were valid in testing the genetic material found on the blade of a shovel, the eye of a pickax, and hairs gathered from the scene. Four hairs were tested against reference samples from Chad Daybell, Lori Daybell and JJ. None of the four hairs were found to be a match with the reference samples.

“Did you find any evidence ... indicating that Chad Daybell’s DNA was present on anything?” Prior asked. Hampikian replied, “No.”

Chad Daybell is on trial for first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Tammy Daybell. He is also charged with killing his new wife Lori Daybell's children — 7-year-old JJ and 16-year-old Tylee, as well as with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder of each of the three victims, grand theft and two counts of insurance fraud.

Once the defense rests and prosecutors call any rebuttal witnesses, a handful of procedural and administrative tasks will have to be completed, including alterations to jury instructions and some evidentiary organization, before both sides will present closing arguments to jurors, which could occur next week.