Idaho - Chad Daybell

Prosecuting attorney Rob Wood questions a witness during Chad Daybell’s preliminary hearing in Fremont County on Monday, August 3, 2020.

Lori Vallow’s attorney Mark Means and special prosecutor Rob Wood met behind closed doors on Dec. 18 at the Fremont County Courthouse with Seventh District Judge Steven Boyce for a hearing on a motion to remove Wood from the Vallow case. Boyce heard arguments concerning allegations of misconduct regarding Wood.

Boyce set a second hearing for Jan. 6 at which time he will make a decision regarding the motion to remove Wood. Newly released documents reveal what happened at the closed hearing.

Means and Chad Daybell’s attorney John Prior filed a joint motion to disqualify Wood from the case.

In court documents filed Dec. 15, Means said he recently received an audio recording that proves Wood had committed “prosecutorial misconduct” in an interview Wood had with Vallow’s relatives in October in Arizona. At that time Wood met with Vallow’s sister Summer Shiflet and former sister-in-law Zulema Pastenes. Pastenes was married to Vallow’s brother, Alex Cox. Cox is believed to have been involved in the murder of Vallow’s two children. He died in December 2019 shortly after marrying Pastenes.

“The recording clearly illustrates Mr. Wood’s attempt to coerce, unduly influence, coach, and or intimidate said material witness to this case. In addition, an audio recording of Mr. Wood interviewing another material witness, Zulema Pastenes, also at or around the same time (October 2020) discussing matters that support the state’s position of the case, etc.”

The prosecutor’s office filed a motion that same day denying misconduct had occurred.

“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 wrote in court documents.

It also noted Wood had never met with the two women without their lawyer. Shiflet and Pastenes’ attorney, Garrett Smith, was with the women at the interview.

“Nearly two and one-half months have passed from that October conference until now wherein no objection was raised. Further, Mr. Smith has never raised any concerns or objections on what occurred on those days,” the prosecutor’s office wrote.

Court documents revealed Smith had recorded Wood without Wood’s knowledge.

“The State has reason to believe that Mr. Smith recorded these conversations, due to the fact that part of the recording with Ms. Pastenes appears to have taken place outside Pastenes’ presence. The State is unaware if Mrs. Shiflett and Ms. Pastenes consented to the recordings or to any disclosure to any third parties,” it said.

Vallow and her husband Chad Daybell face felony charges relating to the alleged cover-up of the deaths of Vallow’s minor children. The remains of 7-year-old J.J. Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan were found buried in Daybell’s backyard in Salem in June. The couple faces charges for conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence. Daybell is facing two additional felony charges for the destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence. Each count carries a punishment of up to five years imprisonment and/or up to a $10,000 fine.

Following the court’s release of a list of witnesses to be called during Vallow’s upcoming trial, Boyce denied the state’s request for a “judicial protective order” preventing witnesses from commenting to reporters or from posting information on social media regarding the Vallow case. The decision means witnesses involved in the case are free to talk to reporters.

The witness list included Vallow and Daybell, Pastenes, the Daybell children, Lori’s brother Adam Cox and his children, Lori’s friend, Melanie Gibb; Shiflet and family members, David Warrick, Larry and Kay Woodcock, April Raymond, Annie Cushing, Lori’s niece Melanie Boudreaux Pawlowski and her former husband, Brandon Boudreaux; Chad’s sister-in-law, Heather Daybell, and brother, Matthew Daybell; and people associated with both the “Preparing People” organization and those from the Another Voice of Warning website.

In addition to the decision regarding the disqualification of Wood, Means and Prior will orally argue before Boyce for a change of venue in their clients’ joint trial on Jan. 6. Prior also will argue for a dismissal of Daybell’s case at that time.

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