Sick Beliefs: Chad Daybell’s ex-friend pinpoints moment ‘cult leader’ took ‘dark turn’ as trial for Lori Vallow’s kids’ murders begins

He described his time with Chad as being 'personal'

U.S. Sun/April 1, 2024

By Olivia Salamone

A friend of accused killer and doomsday author Chad Daybell has described how his beliefs took a dark turn once he met his future wife, Lori Daybell Vallow.

The former friend spoke out on Monday as jury selection began for Chad's trial for the murders of Lori's kids, JJ and Tylee Ryan, and his ex-wife, Tammy Daybell.

Chad, 55, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder after the bodies of Vallow's children, 7-year-old JJ and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan, were found buried in his Idaho yard in the summer of 2020.

Their mother, Lori Vallow Daybell, was found guilty of their deaths last year and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

At Lori's trial, prosecutors described how she and Chad believed "dark spirits" took over their loved ones, whom they then deemed "zombies."

They apparently believed that destroying a possessed person’s body by killing them would get rid of a zombie.

Eric Smith, a religious author and an ex-friend of Chad's, elaborated on the couple's dark beliefs in an interview with Court TV.

Smith had listened to some of Chad's teachings at a conference and became interested in his work.

Chad then moved to the same city that Smith lived in and they eventually met up and formed a friend group of about 10 to 15 people.

Smith said that he didn't spend too much time with Chad, a self-published author of doomsday books, but they got "personal" when they did meet, as they spent time in people's homes listening to Chad read from his books.

The ex-friend explained his take on Chad's religious beliefs and put them in three tiers.

The first tier, Smith explained, was basic Mormonism.

These are beliefs that Smith himself shared with Chad and other devout Mormons.

The second tier was fringe Mormonism, which had to do with doomsday and reincarnation.

Smith said that people were interested in this "end-time figure" that scripture and the church couldn't answer.

Some were so hungry for knowledge on the subject that they went and did their own extensive research.

The third tier was when things began to get a bit more extreme, according to Smith.

"This is where you start to hear about zombies ... something like God accepted murder, God sanctioned murder of children, of spouses," Smith said.

"These are things I never heard him talk about, most of us never did. They're strange to me. They are unacceptable to me."

He explained that he had known Chad during the first two tiers, but about a year before news broke of his wife Tammy's death, Chad pulled away from the group.

"He started going a different route," Smith said. "About that time I think is probably when he started developing these third-tier belief systems.

"As far as I can calculate, that's about when he met Lori and I think there was this real firestorm of beliefs that happened with all Chad's beliefs.

"The tier two beliefs mixed with what I see as a kind of murderous component to it that came from Lori.

"Those just combined and made this explosion. A really unfortunate circumstance there."


Smith explained that Chad's first wife, Tammy, was not often part of the events that he attended with Chad.

"I would say she was very much not part of the mix. Anything that I ever attended related to Chad, I never saw her there," he said.

However, he met and interacted with Tammy a handful of times at barbeques the families would have.

"She was such a sweetheart. She was kind, but she was shy and reserved and wasn't real talkative," Smith recalled.

She did have a funny side and a great personality that Smith and his wife admired.

When Tammy died in her sleep in 2019, it was initially believed it was the result of natural causes.

However, after Dr. Erik Christensen, Utah's chief medical examiner, took a closer look, he discovered bruises on her arms and chest.

He said the bruises were consistent with that of someone who was being restrained.

"We determined her cause of death to be the result of asphyxia and her manner of death to be homicide," he concluded.

Lori and Chad were eventually charged with Tammy's murder, in addition to the murder of Lori's two kids.


Jury selection for Chad's trial began this week in Boise, Idaho, and is expected to take about seven days.

His entire trial could take up to 10 weeks.

Along with the three counts of first-degree murder, he has also been charged with insurance fraud in connection with Tammy’s death, and two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft by deception in the children’s deaths.

If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Chad has pleaded not guilty and his attorney, John Prior, told KIVI-TV in Boise that he is ready to go forward with the case and “wants to tell his story."

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