Nearly a year after the remains of Lori Vallow’s two children were found in the backyard of her husband’s Idaho property, the couple has been indicted on murder charges for crimes they allegedly justified with their doomsday-centered religious beliefs, authorities said Tuesday.
An Idaho grand jury indicted Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow on several counts—including first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder—in connection with the deaths of Vallow’s kids, 7-year-old J.J Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan. Chad Daybell, a doomsday author, has also been charged with first-degree murder for the death of Tammy Daybell, his ex-wife. Vallow has been separately charged with grand theft.
“All three homicides and the related financial crimes were committed as part of a continuing criminal scheme,” Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood said in a Tuesday statement.
In the indictment, prosecutors allege that between “October 26, 2018, and June 9, 2020” Daybell and Vallow “did endorse and espouse religious beliefs for the purpose of encouraging and/or justifying the homicide” of all three people.
According to text messages between the couple, they believed that Tammy Daybell was in “Limbo...and being possessed by a spirit name Viola,” the indictment states.
Prosecutors said Tuesday the penalty for the most serious felonies against them range from life in prison without parole to the death penalty. It is not immediately clear whether prosecutors will pursue the death penalty.
J.J.’s cousin, Zac Cox, was ecstatic about the new charges, writing on Twitter: “Finally!!! and on JJs birthday too.”
The couple, who are members of a community of doomsday preppers and were married two weeks after Daybell was widowed, are already in prison for several other crimes related to the children’s disappearance in September 2019 and their reluctance to help authorities in the investigation.
Prosecutors now allege Daybell and Vallow murdered Tylee Ryan on Sept. 8 or Sept. 9, 2019, after almost a year of planning. About two weeks later, the pair killed J.J., the indictment states.
A month before the kids’ disappearance, Vallow allegedly re-routed Tylee’s bank account and Social Security benefits to her own personal account. After J.J.’s death, she did the same with his Social Security benefits.
In all, Vallow allegedly collected at least five months worth of Social Security benefits on Tylee Ryan’s behalf and four months on J.J.’s.
In January 2020, Vallow refused to comply with a court order to produce her two children—and asked a friend to falsely tell police she was watching her son.
Last June, Idaho authorities charged the pair with conspiracy to conceal evidence after the remains of J.J. and Tylee Ryan were found in Daybell’s home during an investigation into the disappearance of his two stepchildren.
Investigators said J.J. Vallow—still wearing red pajamas—was found “tightly wrapped” in black plastic with his head, arms, and feet bound in duct tape. Several feet away, authorities said they found “a mass of burnt flesh and charred bone” in a pet cemetery that was later determined to be the remains of Tylee Ryan.
Questions still remain, however, as to how exactly the siblings died, and whether Daybell and wife Lori Vallow’s apocalyptic religious beliefs played any role.
Tylee and J.J’s disappearance also brought scrutiny to the deaths of Vallow’s and Daybell’s previous spouses. In December 2019, the body of Daybell’s ex-wife Tammy was exhumed. Prosecutors now allege Daybell murdered his ex-wife and that Vallow and her brother Alex Cox—who died of natural causes in December 2019—conspired in the crime.
The indictment states that Daybell also used his religious beliefs to justify his ex-wife’s murder and that the doomsday author and Vallow even texted about Tammy’s “death percentages” in July 2019.
On Sept. 8, the day prosecutors believe the couple killed Tylee, Daybell signed an application with his wife to “increase her LifeMap insurance to the maximum allowed under her policy.”
The indictment states that on Oct. 9, 2019, Cox attempted to shoot Daybell’s ex-wife—but it wasn’t until later that month that Daybell finished off the crime.
It seems the new charges are not Vallow’s only problem. In a Friday Zoom hearing, Seventh District Court Judge Steven Boyce deemed Vallow indigent, meaning she cannot afford to pay for her own court fees.
Daybell and Vallow are expected to be arraigned on the slew of new charges Wednesday.