Chad Daybell’s kids say authorities told them their mother was asphyxiated

The lives of Chad Daybell’s children were changed forever on October 19, 2019, when their 49-year-old mother, Tammy, was found dead in their parents’ bedroom in their home outside of Rexburg, Idaho.

“My room was down the hall. And I heard a thump,” said Garth Daybell. “And heard my dad yell, ‘Garth, Garth, come quick,’ with the most panic I’d ever heard in his voice.”

Garth Daybell said his mother was already dead and they called 911.

“My dad was just pacing back and forth,” Garth recalled. “Just saying, ‘Why? How could this happen?’ Pointing at pictures on the wall, ‘She can’t be dead. Like, how could this be? What do we do?'”

Tammy and Chad Daybell
Tammy and Chad Daybell Emma Murray

Chad Daybell’s children sat down together for their first interview with “48 Hours” contributor Jonathan Vigliotti to correct what they believe are misconceptions about their mother’s death. The broadcast, “The Secrets of Chad Daybell’s Backyard,” airs Wednesday, September 1 at 10/9c on CBS and Paramount+.

The Daybell children say when the coroner arrived that day, she told them it appeared their mother had died of natural causes. The children, who say their mother was in failing health, accepted that explanation. And they say it was they, not their father, who declined to have an autopsy performed.

“The narrative is that he was going, ‘No, no, no autopsy.’ But he was standing there — in complete shock, traumatized, letting us make the decision,” says Chad Daybell’s daughter, Emma Murray. “If he was trying to hide something, you — I wouldn’t leave something like that up to my kids if I was trying to hide something.”

Based on the family’s wishes, no autopsy was performed. However, things changed when Chad Daybell came under the police’s radar following his subsequent quick marriage to Lori Vallow and the disappearance of her children Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow. Investigators theorized that Chad may have wanted to get Tammy out of the way to start a new life with Lori, and collect on a life insurance policy on Tammy.

Daybell children
Chad and Tammy Daybell’s five children  remain steadfast in their belief that their father had nothing to do with the death of their mother, or the murders of JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan. CBS News

In December 2019, the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office began calling Tammy Daybell’s death suspicious. Her body was exhumed, and an autopsy was performed. The results have not been publicly released, but Garth Daybell says authorities told him how they believe his mother died.

“They told me that she’d been asphyxiated … but we never saw an autopsy,” he said.

“Asphyxiation doesn’t necessarily mean smothered,” added Mark Daybell. “According to my understanding, it just means the breath was interrupted. And in the end, she wasn’t able to breathe. And according to that, there’s more facts we need. We don’t just say, ‘Oh, well, bye, Chad.’ No there’s still love, there’s still connection.”

The Daybell children say authorities have been less than forthcoming with them. “They’ve told us things before that turned out to not be true,” said Garth Daybell.

Chad and Lori Vallow Daybell
Chad Daybell is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Tammy Daybell. He is also charged, along with his new wife Lori Vallow, of murdering her two children, JJ, 7, and Tylee Ryan. AP/Madison Co Sheriff

In May 2021, investigators charged Chad Daybell with first-degree murder of Tammy Daybell. Chad is also charged, along with his new wife Lori Vallow, of murdering her two children, JJ, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 16. Vallow has not yet entered a plea and the case against her has been suspended after a finding of mental incompetence. Chad Daybell pleaded not guilty to the charges and is in jail awaiting trial.

Meanwhile, his five children remain steadfast in their belief that their father had nothing to do with the death of their mother or the murders of JJ and Tylee, feeling there has been a rush to judgement.

“We presume innocence in this country. Just because things look funny, we don’t send people to jail,” said Murray.