Police used cellphone pings to find the remains of doomsday mom Lori Vallow’s missing children in her husband’s Idaho backyard—her teenage daughter dismembered and burned, and her 6-year-old autistic son wrapped in plastic and duct tape.
The grisly details were contained in a probable cause affidavit unsealed a week after Vallow’s husband Chad Daybell was arrested on charges of concealing evidence. Vallow herself was already in jail for refusing to produce daughter Tylee and son J.J. months after they disappeared.
The court papers do not say how the children were killed but suggest they died two weeks apart and that Vallow’s brother, Alex Cox, who has since died, was involved in the disposal. Vallow and Daybell have not been charged with the children’s deaths, though the affidavit notes at several points that their mother believed they had become “zombies.”
“They also stated their mission was to rid the world of zombies,” the affidavit says.
Daybell, the author of a series of apocalyptic novels aimed at a Mormon audience, and Vallow, who friends say fell under his sway, refused to cooperate with police investigating the disappearance of the children and hightailed it to Hawaii—where they had gotten married after their previous spouses died under suspicious circumstances.
According to the affidavit, police figured out where to look for Tylee and J.J. by examining cellphone records on the days after each child was last seen.
In Tylee’s case that was a Sept. 8 trip to Yellowstone National Park with Vallow and Cox. In the wee hours of Sept. 9, Cox’s cellphone pings put him in Vallow’s apartment and then later in the morning at Daybell’s property for several hours.
That same morning, Daybell texted his then-wife, Tammy, and told her that he had burned tree limbs and also shot a raccoon that he then buried in their “pet cemetery” on the grounds. An investigator noted that it would have been odd for Daybell to see a nocturnal animal in the middle of the morning.
J.J. was last seen on Sept. 22 when Vallow’s friends were visiting. The next morning, the child was nowhere to be found, the friends told police, and Vallow claimed her brother had taken him the night before because he was “acting like a zombie” and had knocked a picture of Jesus off the refrigerator.
Cellphone pings from that morning put Cox back at the Daybell property, specifically near the pond, the affidavit said.
When police searched the property last week, they found J.J.’s plastic-wrapped body near the pond, under paneling, rocks and sod. They found Tylee’s remains at the spot where Cox had been traced to, near buried cat and dog skeletons.
Daybell and Vallow have denied any wrongdoing but have not made any public comments about what happened to the children. The missing person’s case drew attention to the couple’s bizarre religious beliefs, along with the deaths of their previous spouses.
Vallow’s husband, Charles, was shot to death by Cox in what was initially described as a case of self-defense during a domestic dispute. Tammy Daybell’s death was listed as natural after she went to bed with a cough and never woke up—but her body has since been exhumed and autopsied and her demise labeled as suspicious. Authorities recently said that Cox’s death was from natural causes.