Idaho mother to face murder charges in deaths of 2 children

Lori Vallow is seen during a hearing in Rexburg, Idaho. Daybell who is charged with felony child abandonment after her two children went missing in September 2019.
Lori Vallow is seen during a hearing in Rexburg, Idaho. Daybell who is charged with felony child abandonment after her two children went missing in September 2019.

Credit: John Roark

Credit: John Roark

Trial scheduled for July; lesser charges both face could be upgraded

Prosecutors are reportedly planning to file murder charges against an Idaho mother and her husband more than six months after their two children were found dead on the man’s property.

The children’s mother, 46-year-old Lori Vallow, has pleaded not guilty to all charges in the case while refusing to cooperate with investigators.

The desertion and nonsupport of children charges she previously faced were dismissed in July last year, three weeks after her children — 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan — were found dead, according to reports. Next, prosecutors filed two felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence against her. She also still faces misdemeanor counts of resisting and obstructing an officer, solicitation of a crime and contempt of court.

Her spouse, Chad Daybell, 52, has pleaded not guilty to four felony counts related to destruction, concealment and alteration of evidence after authorities raided his eastern Idaho home last June and found the remains of the children, who were both last seen in September 2019.

Vallow was arrested in Hawaii in February 2020 and was extradited back to Rexburg, Idaho. She remains jailed on a $1 million bond she can’t afford to pay.

After more than a year of hearings, procedural motions, recusals and bickering among attorneys, the joint jury trial for Vallow and Daybell is set to begin July 12.

Before then, however, the charges they face could be upgraded.

Prosecutor discusses charges

Idaho special prosecutor Rob Wood was heard on a recording this week saying he may have enough evidence to file murder charges against both defendants, according to the Idaho State Journal.

“I’m going to tell you right now we are going to be filing conspiracy to murder charges for both Chad and Lori,” Wood said in a call to Vallow’s sister Summer Shiflet, the State Journal reported.

The recording was played at the hearing on Wednesday to determine whether to remove Wood from the case due to accusations of ethical misconduct.

Recorded without Wood’s knowledge, the conversation raised legal questions about whether Wood potentially manipulated Shiflet by affiliating himself with her religious beliefs.

“The recording clearly illustrates Mr. Wood’s attempt to coerce, unduly influence, coach, and or intimidate said material witness to this case,” read court documents filed by the defense.

Wood denies the claims and has called for an expedited hearing into the charges.

Vallow and Daybell did not attend the latest hearing.

Doomsday cult

The bizarre saga involves many other twists, including several suspicious deaths and Daybell and Vallow’s membership in a doomsday cult called Preparing a People that may have led them to believe the children were possessed by zombies, reports said.

Daybell is Vallow’s fifth and current husband and the author of several esoteric novels about the apocalypse that are based loosely on principles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also Vallow’s religion, according to reports.

Vallow met Daybell in 2018 when she was still married to her previous husband, Charles, and Daybell was still married to his previous wife, Tammy.

At the time, Vallow and Daybell were attending a religious conference in St. George, Utah, where Daybell was selling novels he had written about the apocalypse.

Vallow’s friend said the two quickly connected on some of his teachings, including reincarnation.

According to friends, Vallow and Daybell later began claiming they were among 144,000 people chosen to prepare for the second coming of Jesus Christ, which is cited in the Book of Revelations in the Bible.

A marriage unravels

Around this same time, Vallow’s fourth marriage was falling apart.

Charles Vallow filed for a protection order against Lori after she allegedly began making threats to kill him, reports said.

He had also discovered that she had tried to change the passwords to his accounts, according to reports.

After this, Vallow had Lori’s name removed from his $1 million life insurance policy, which ultimately went to his sister.

Charles Vallow also confided to family members that Lori was cheating and claiming to be a god, according to The Arizona Republic, and was in the process of filing for divorce when he was shot to death by Lori’s brother Alex Cox in July 2019.

After the shooting, Lori Vallow packed up the kids and moved to Rexburg, Idaho, to be closer to Daybell.

By September, the children were gone.

‘She went over the edge’

During their first meeting, Daybell supposedly convinced Vallow that he could create spiritual portals that could transcend time and space, and that he and Vallow had already lived multiple previous lifetimes where they also knew each other.

After their meeting, Daybell and Vallow exchanged numbers and later purchased phones as a way to secretly communicate with each other.

Initially friends said they didn’t think Vallow took Daybell’s beliefs seriously, but as their relationship developed they began to notice a change in Vallow’s behavior.

“I thought Lori was great, very loving,” says her former sister-in-law, Annie Cushing, according to an exclusive interview with PEOPLE Magazine. “But there was a tectonic shift in her [after meeting Daybell], and she went over the edge.”

Both Vallow’s and Daybell’s former spouses are now dead, and police are investigating at least one as a potential homicide, according to reports.

Previous wife dead

Daybell had five children with his previous wife of 30 years before she died mysteriously in her sleep Oct. 19, 2019.

Two weeks after her death, Daybell eloped to Hawaii with his new bride, Lori, where they had a beach wedding.

An FBI analyst who reviewed cellphone records testified that on Sept. 9, 2019, before Tammy’s death, Chad Daybell sent a text to her, saying he was burning debris and that he had also shot and buried a large raccoon on his property. The analyst said that was notable because Tylee Ryan was last seen alive on Sept. 8 in Yellowstone National Park.

Raising more suspicions, Amazon shopping records unearthed the following March show a wedding ring was purchased a little more than two weeks before Tammy died, and that Chad Daybell also shopped online for wedding dresses the day after she passed away.

Tammy Daybell’s body was exhumed from the Springville Evergreen Cemetery in Utah for further examination, but the results of the autopsy have not been released.

Neither Daybell nor Vallow has been formally charged in her death, but prosecutors were considering possible conspiracy, attempted murder and murder counts, according to East Idaho News, which has followed the case closely from the outset.

Honeymoon in Hawaii

Back in Idaho in November, authorities carrying out a search warrant for the children at the Vallow home arrived to find no one there.

Daybell and Vallow were 3,000 miles away at the time, enjoying a monthslong honeymoon at an exclusive resort before authorities finally tracked them down to Kauai.

There were no signs the children were ever with them.

Brother likely involved

In December, two months after Tammy Daybell died, Lori’s brother Alex Cox also died of an apparent blood clot in his lung at his Arizona home, according to reports.

Cox, who appeared with Vallow and the children in Sept. 8 family photos at Yellowstone National Park, claimed self-defense in the July 2019 shooting death of Lori’s fourth husband, Charles Vallow, who was Joshua’s adoptive father. Police said they now believe Cox was involved in the conspiracy to hide the children’s remains.

He was never arrested or charged in Charles Vallow’s death, but Arizona authorities are continuing to investigate.

Prosecutors said this week that cellphone location records indicated that the day after Joshua was last seen alive in late September, Cox showed up at Chad Daybell’s property just as he had shown up at Tylee Ryan’s gravesite the day after she disappeared.

A grim timeline

Before June, Chad Daybell had never been charged in the case, although police previously raided his house in early January and collected 43 items of evidence, East Idaho News reported.

In early March, Daybell told news media in Hawaii that “the kids are safe.”

Joshua’s eighth birthday passed May 25 with no signs of him or Tylee.

A neighbor said Daybell, who once worked as a gravedigger at a Utah cemetery, had lit several bonfires in recent months.

“We noticed they were having a few bonfires that were kind of out of the ordinary,” said Matthew Price, who lives across the street. “They had a big bonfire last fall, and they had two or three big bonfires this spring,” he said, adding that Daybell, a once-talkative-and-friendly neighbor, became distant and aloof after the children vanished.

Next, several backhoes were seen entering Daybell’s property in Idaho on June 9, 2020.

Aerial photos at the rural home showed investigators conducting a grid search, with detectives paying particular attention to a circular fire pit.

Nearby, mounds of dirt were excavated with a little more than a dozen 5-gallon buckets. Blue tarps and tents peppered the landscape around a large barn-like structure.

Parked on the street were dozens of crime scene investigative vehicles.

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