A month after lying to authorities about the whereabouts of Lori Vallow’s 7-year-old boy at his mom’s behest, Melanie Gibb demanded answers from her best friend.
“I had to move him somewhere else,” Vallow explained during a Dec. 8 phone call with her new husband, Chad Daybell, and Gibb. “The danger is that there are people after me.”
“If you knew, it would put you in danger,” Daybell interjected, with a laugh. “I’m not telling nobody where he is so I can keep him as safe as possible. So nobody has to be questioned about it, so he can be safe.”
About a month earlier, Vallow had asked Gibb not to talk to the cops about her son J.J.’s whereabouts, suggesting that the 7-year-old’s grandmother wanted to kidnap him, the friend testified Monday during a preliminary hearing in the case against Daybell.
In the recorded call—which was played in Fremont County Courthouse on Monday—Vallow said that J.J. was “safe and happy,” but refused to disclose whether she would return to Idaho.
“I did exactly what I thought the Lord was instructing me to do,” Vallow said, just after asking whether Gibb was recording the call. “I promise you I have done nothing wrong in this case.”
Daybell, 52, is accused of hiding evidence when authorities began to investigate the disappearance of Vallow’s two children, J.J and Tylee Ryan, who were found dead this summer. 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 the investigation.
The fourth witness of the day, Gibb testified about her relationship with Vallow, whom she once considered a “best friend” after meeting the mother-of-two at church in Arizona. She added that her relationship with Daybell, whom she has known for “three to four years,” was centered around his relationship with Vallow and some of the doomsday books he had written.
Authorities say J.J. and Ryan, 17, had not been seen since September, but they weren’t registered as missing until November. In June, investigators found the two children’s remains—one “tightly” wrapped in plastic and the other badly burned—in the backyard of Daybell’s home.
Gibb testified she last saw Ryan in July or August 2019 in Arizona and had assumed she was in college when she traveled to visit Vallow in Idaho in September. During that trip, Gibb said she saw Daybell and Vallow acting “affectionately,” holding hands and kissing—even though the doomsday writer was still married to his ex-wife.
At the end of the weekend, Gibb said Vallow revealed that she had lied to J.J’s grandmother, Kay Woodcock, and told her “she had breast cancer” in order to persuade her to take care of the autistic 7-year-old.
Two months later, Gibb said she was “shocked” when she received a phone call from Daybell in the “late morning” warning her not to answer a future call from the Rexburg Police Department inquiring about J.J.
“Hi Melanie, this is Chad. The Rexburg Police are going to call you. Don’t pick up,” Daybell told Gibb on Nov. 26, adding that authorities were at Vallow’s house looking for the child. Daybell told her Vallow was going to tell authorities J.J. was with her, and Gibb said she asked, “JJ is not at Kay’s house?”
“He said no,” she testified. “I asked him if he was nervous and he said, ‘Yes.’”
About an hour later, Gibb said Vallow called her, stating that everything was “fine” and that she wanted to protect J.J. from his grandmother, whom she accused of wanting to “kidnap him.”
Gibb stated that despite feeling “horrible,” she followed her friend’s wishes and didn’t answer calls from Idaho authorities because she believed the 7-year-old was in danger. Later, she said she spoke to a Gilbert police detective, Ryan Pillar, falsely telling him that she had been with J.J but that the child was back with Vallow.
Upset that her friend was “misleading and manipulative,” Gibb said that she decided to record her conversation with Vallow to assist in the ongoing police investigation. While the call between Gibb and Vallow fluctuates between scriptures and questions about J.J, Vallow gets angry at the suggestion she did anything that could hurt her son.
“You know me, Mel. It sounds like you’ve been influenced by someone dark,” Vallow said, stressing that police were working with J.J.’s grandmother in a “dark capacity.” “I’m sorry that you don’t want me to protect my children.”