The day her two children’s remains were found gruesomely buried in her new husband’s Idaho backyard, Lori Vallow called her spouse from jail.
“Are they seizing stuff again?” Vallow asked several times during the June 9, 2020 call from Madison County Jail, after Chad Daybell told her police were at his property. “What can I do for you?”
Daybell, an author of apocalyptic novels for a Mormon audience, somberly told his incarcerated wife—who was being held on charges related to the disappearance of her kids J.J Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 17—that although police were at his home, he was “glad” that she called.
“I’m not really supposed to be talking to you,” Daybell mumbled at one point, later stating that authorities were “searching for the kids.” “We’ll see what transpires.”
The two, who appeared unconcerned that officers were searching the home as part of a nearly nine-month investigation into Vallow’s children, said “I love you” at least half a dozen times before hanging up.
Less than an hour later, Daybell was arrested after investigators found the two children’s remains—one “tightly” wrapped in plastic and the other badly burned—in his backyard.
Daybell, 52, is accused of hiding evidence when authorities began to investigate the disappearance of the kids.
Daybell and Vallow, who are members of a community of doomsday preppers and were married two weeks after Daybell was widowed, have not been charged in the deaths of the two children. Both, however, are facing charges related to hindering the investigation.
Authorities say Vallow’s two children disappeared in September, but they weren’t registered as missing until November.
Two weeks before the children disappeared, Daybell texted his ex-wife, Tammy Daybell that stood out as longer and oddly detailed compared to their other messages regarding bills and errands, FBI intelligence Benjamin Dean testified Tuesday.
“Well, I’ve had an interesting morning! I felt I should burn all of the limb debris by the fire pit before it got too soaked by the coming storms,” it said. “While I did so, I spotted a big raccoon along the fence. I hurried and got my gun, and he was still walking along. I got close enough that one shot did the trick. He is now in our pet cemetery. Fun times!”
A month later, Tammy Daybell had died of unknown causes. Chad Daybell ultimately declined an autopsy—a move that raised eyebrows—and married Vallow weeks later.
David Warwick, a friend of Daybell and Vallow, testified Tuesday that the day after J.J. was last seen on September 22, Vallow told him that the autistic 7-year-old he had been “acting like a zombie.”
“She said J.J. was being a zombie [and] that he climbed up on to the cabinets,” Warwick testified Tuesday, adding that Vallow said “he was out of control” so she had her brother, Alex Cox, “come get him.”
In January, after Vallow repeatedly lied about the kids’ whereabouts and then fled to Hawaii with her new husband, she was served an order instructing her to return the two minors.
Vallow was eventually arrested in Hawaii after failing to produce her children. Authorities tracked the cellphone movements of her brother, Alex Cox, which showed he was on Daybell’s property on September 23, the same day Vallow told friends he had allegedly taken the 7-year-old.
The cellphone data led authorities to locate the children’s remains on June 9, Rexburg Police Department Detective Ray Hermosillo testified on Monday.
Cox died in his bathroom in December. The prior July, he shot Vallow’s ex-husband, Charles Vallow, dead in what he said was self-defense during a domestic dispute. While Cox and his sister were questioned by police, neither was charged.
On Monday, Hermosillo described in graphic detail how authorities found a small child’s body in a “shallow grave” near a tree that had “three large white flat rocks” placed “in a row” with “thin wood paneling” underneath during the June 9, 2020, search of Daybell’s property.
“As soon as we lifted the wood paneling out of the hole in Chad Daybell’s backyard, I could immediately smell the odor of a decomposing body,” Hermosillo said, noting that the 7-year-old was “tightly” wrapped in a black plastic bag.
Several feet away, authorities discovered “a mass of burnt flesh and charred bone” they later determined to be the remains of Tylee, in a “pet cemetery” on Daybell’s property.
FBI Special Agent Steven Daniel, who was also at Daybell’s property on June 9, said that the “pet cemetery” was marked with a small dog statute and was near a fire pit. Soon after excavating the area, Daniel said that he instantly smelt decomposing flesh and investigators began to use hand tools in what he called “a mess of burned human remains.”
“Eventually we're able to excavate a few pieces; the major piece ends up being a pelvic piece,” Daniel said. “At the bottom of the mass we found a melted green bucket and in the bucket a skull and mandible with teeth.”
During his closing statement in Tuesday’s hearing, Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood urged Judge Faren Eddins to send Daybell’s case to a district court for trial, stating that the testimony of over a dozen witnesses show the graphic state that Tylee and J.J. were found and the mysteriousness around their disappearance.
“Those bodies were concealed. One of them was destroyed. They were located on Chad Daybell’s property. Alex Cox, whose phone pinged near those locations, became his brother-in-law less than two months later,” Wood said.
However, defense attorney John Prior argued that being married to Vallow was “not an overt act” and the state didn’t “come close” to having enough evidence to prove Daybell committed any wrongdoing.
After less than 15 minutes of deliberation, Eddins sided with the state and ruled there was “sufficient cause” that Daybell committed the four counts against him.
As Eddins gave his ruling, J.J.’s grandparents, Kay and Larry Woodcock, high fived and embraced one another behind Daybell, who remained emotionless