A trial begins for an apocalyptic cult leader who killed his partner’s children because he believed they were “zombies.”

Chad Debell sits during a court hearing Aug. 4, 2020, in St. Anthony, Idaho. (By John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register AP, Poole, File)

The trial of a man accused of killing his wife and his girlfriend’s two young children will begin this week in Idaho, serving as the second act in a bizarre case that has drawn worldwide attention and already led to his mother being sentenced to life in prison. Children

trial of Chad Debell Lasting 10 weeks, jury selection begins Monday in Boise. A 55-year-old suspect has been charged Three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Tammy Debell, 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Valo and JJ’s older sister Tylee Ryanwho was last seen a few days before her 17th birthday.

mother of the youngest children, Lori Walo Debelwho married Chad Debell shortly after his death was convicted last year and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The couple claimed they could tell if people had dark spirits that could turn them into “zombies,” their former friend Melanie Gibb testified in court. They believed that the only way to get rid of a zombie was to kill the possessed person and destroy his body.

The children’s bodies were buried in Chad Debell’s eastern Idaho yard in the summer of 2020.

An aerial photograph of the area where investigators are searching for human remains at Chad Debell’s residence in Salem, Idaho, on June 9, 2020. (Idaho Post-Register, file by John Roark/AP)

Chad Debell is also charged with insurance fraud in connection with Tammy Debell’s death and two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand larceny by deception in the deaths of children.

He could face the death penalty if found guilty.

DeBelle has pleaded not guilty. Last week, his attorney John Pryor told KIVI-TV in Boise that Debell is ready to move forward with the case and “wants to tell his story.”

Two days later, Seventh District Judge Steven Boyce issued an order barring any attorneys or parties in the case from speaking on the matter until after jury selection and opening statements.

Chad and Lori Debell were originally scheduled to be tried together, but asked the court to split the case before 2022, with the co-defendants having “mutually adversarial defenses.” The legal term usually means that a jury must disbelieve one defendant in order to believe another.

Chad and Lori Debell are seen renting a car at the Maui airport. A woman who emailed the photo to asked to remain anonymous.

“Our version of the facts of this case will be very different from what Ms. Valo and her legal counsel will present,” Pryor told the judge, who then agreed to split the cases.

The serious case began in the fall of 2019, when family members discovered that Lori Valo’s two youngest children were apparently missing, prompting authorities to launch a search. The ensuing investigation, which lasted for months, spanned several states and took many dark and unexpected turns.

Lori Wallo and Chad DeBelle were having an affair when their partner died unexpectedly, the researchers found. Velo’s husband was shot and killed by her brother in Arizona in July 2019, and the brother told police it was self-defense.

Tammy Debell died in her sleep in November 2019, an untimely death first attributed to natural causes but later determined to be asphyxiation, according to an autopsy. Lori Valo and Chad Debell were married just two weeks after Tammy Debell’s death, surprising family and officials.

Friends of the couple later told detectives that the couple also held unusual religious beliefs, including that they were reincarnated and tasked with gathering people before biblical revelations.

Lori Velo Debell poses for a booking photo on May 12, 2023, at the Madison County Jail in Rexburg, Idaho after being convicted of murdering her two children and conspiring to kill her husband’s first wife. Handout by Madison County Sheriff’s Office/REUTERS

Lori Velo DeBelle identified her two youngest children as zombies before they disappeared in September 2019, a friend would later testify during her trial, Gibb testified.

Prosecutors say Lori and Chad DeBelle adopted those apocalyptic beliefs to justify the deaths of their children and wife, but that it was part of a scheme to remove any obstacles in their relationship and collect money from survivor benefits and life insurance.

(with information from AP)

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