‘Cult mom’ Lori Vallow could face the death penalty if she’s found guilty of murdering her children as prosecutors move to try her alongside her husband in January.
Vallow, 48, and her husband Chad Daybell have been charged with multiple counts of conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder, among other crimes.
They are in relation to the deaths of Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow, 7, Tylee Ryan, 16, and Daybell’s first wife Tammy.
The children were found buried in Daybell’s backyard in Idaho in 2020 after they were last seen in September 2019. Tammy was killed in October 2019, two weeks before Vallow and Daybell married, authorities said.
In a court filing on Monday, Fremont and Madison county prosecutors indicated that they plan to seek the death penalty against the pair if they’re convicted, the East Idaho News reports.
Their indictments allege the couple became convinced their victims were zombies who had been possessed by dark spirits and could only be released through death. Vallow and Daybell have both pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Idaho prosecutors indicated that they plan to seek the death penalty against Lori Vallow and her husband Chad Daybell if they’re found guilty of murdering Vallow’s children
Lori Vallow (left) and Chad Daybell (right) were said to have extreme religious beliefs. Detectives believe the couple’s ‘belief system, lust and greed’ also led to the deaths of Tylee Ryan, JJ Vallow and Tammy Daybell
Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow, left, and Tylee Ryan, right, were last seen in September 2019. Their bodies were eventually discovered buried on Chad Daybell’s property after a nine-month search
Vallow pleaded not guilty to murdering her children during a court appearance in April
Prosecutors cited a number of reasons as to why Vallow and Daybell are eligible for the death penalty.
According to their filing, the pair’s alleged murders fit the bill for the sentence, which requires crimes to be ‘especially heinous, atrocious, cruel, or manifesting exceptional depravity.’
The death penalty is also called for in cases exhibiting ‘an utter disregard for human life,’ prosecutors say, as well as in murders ‘committed for remuneration,’ or pay.
Vallow wore a blue sweater and green reading glasses as she entered a courtroom at the Fremont County Courthouse on April 19.
She remained silent as District Judge Steven Boyce summarized the six charges against her – with her attorney asking the court to enter a not guilty plea.
Vallow was arrested in Hawaii in February and extradited to Idaho in March.
Last year, a jury-ordered psychological assessment determined she was incompetent to move ahead with the trial. But last month, Fremont County District Judge Steven Boyce ordered court proceedings against Vallow to continue, saying she had restored competency.
The 48-year-old was at Fremont County Courthouse in St Anthony, Idaho (pictured), following her husband Chad Daybell, on April 19
JJ’s grandfather Larry Woodcock last week accused Vallow of ‘knowing how to play the system’ and said he was thankful Judge Boyce had restored her competency.
He told KUTV: ‘We’re thankful that it has moved forward. I’ve said it since day one, she is not incompetent. She knows how to play the system.’
Vallow is also charged in Arizona with conspiring to kill her former estranged husband Charles Vallow with the help of her now-deceased brother Alex Cox.
Vallow and Daybell’s indictments allege the couple became convinced their victims were zombies who had been possessed by dark spirits and could only be released through death.
Vallow’s close friend Melanie Gibbs told investigators that the couple drew people into their circle of believers by giving them bits of information and flattered followers by telling them they were part of the select few who were supposed to carry out a special spiritual mission.
Those who questioned the beliefs were pushed out of the group, investigators said.
The Daybells used a special scoring system to determine whether people were good or evil, Gibbs said.
Each person was assigned a number to indicate how many times they had lived before, as well as a ‘light’ or ‘dark’ rating to indicate if they had made a contract with God or Satan.
People were also given ‘vibration’ scores and trustworthiness ratings, and those with high-enough ‘vibrations’ were deemed to be ‘translated,’ holding special powers.
The Daybells believed ‘zombies’ were people who had died and their bodies had been possessed by evil spirits. The group would spend time praying to get rid of the zombies, and believed that if they were successful the possessed person would physically die, freeing their soul from ‘limbo.’
JJ’s grandfather Larry Woodcock last week accused Vallow of ‘knowing how to play the system’ and said he was thankful Judge Boyce had restored her competency
Vallow told some of her friends that her estranged husband Charles was a zombie, according to investigators, and some in the group regularly joined her in praying for his demise.
After he was shot and killed by Alex Cox during an argument, Cox reportedly told another follower that he didn’t feel bad because he killed a zombie.
The group also believed that once a person became ‘exalted,’ they couldn’t be held responsible for their actions on Earth.
An investigative report notes: ‘Because Lori was already “exalted,” she would often slam her hand on the counter and state, “Doesn’t count for me!”‘
Vallow had been confined to a state psychiatric hospital since June 8, 2021, after she was found incompetent to stand trial after a psychological assessment.
Her stay at the psychiatric facility was extended several times before her competency was restored last week.
Vallow is accused of killing two of her children, JJ and Tylee, with the help of her husband Daybell.
JJ’s grandfather said he would be in court for Vallow’s arraignment and trial in January, hoping the system gets justice for his grandson.
He added: ‘He was just a special little boy. I promise you. I will be sitting so close to them, I can iron their clothes from the back.’
JJ and Tylee are seen smiling and hugging while standing on a boardwalk in front of a thermal feature at Yellowstone National Park in Idaho on September 8, 2019, with their uncle Alex Cox. It would be the last time that Tylee was seen alive
Tylee and JJ vanished in September 2019, leading to a nationwide hunt. Their bodies were not found until the following June.
The whole saga began in 2019, when Charles Vallow was killed by Lori’s brother Alex Cox.
A police probe in Arizona found computer documents indicating that Charles discovered his wife was having an affair with Chad Daybell just weeks before his death.
Charles confronted Lori in a text message and then reached out to Daybell’s wife Tammy to let her know their spouses were cheating.
The investigators did not determine if she ever read the email or deleted it without reading.
Eleven days after Charles sent the email, he was shot to death by Cox, who argued self-defense.
At the time, he was seeking a divorce, saying Lori believed she had become a god-like figure who was responsible for ushering in the biblical end times.
Meanwhile Cox died in December 2019 of an apparent blood clot in his lung.
A police investigation in Arizona uncovered computer documents that indicated Charles Vallow discovered his wife was having an affair with Chad Daybell just weeks before his death (Lori and Charles are pictured at their wedding in 2006)
Before marrying Lori Vallow, Chad Daybell was married to Tammy Daybell, who died in October 2019. Authorities grew suspicious when Chad Daybell married Lori Vallow after just two weeks, and Tammy Daybell’s body was exhumed. Although the autopsy results have never been publicly released, Tammy Daybell’s son, Garth Daybell said last year authorities believe his mother died by asphyxiation
Tylee was last seen on September 8, 2019, while JJ was last seen with his uncle Alex Cox on September 22. Their bodies were found in Daybell’s backyard in June 2020
Shortly after Charles’s death, Vallow and the children moved to Idaho, where Daybell lived.
He ran a publishing firm putting out fiction books he wrote on apocalyptic scenarios loosely based on the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He also recorded podcasts about preparing for biblical end times, and friends said he claimed to be able to receive visions from ‘beyond the veil’.
He was married to Tammy, who died in October 2019. Authorities grew suspicious when Daybell married Lori just two weeks later, and Tammy’s body was exhumed.
The autopsy has never been released, but Tammy’s son, Garth said last year they told him they believe his mother died by asphyxiation.
Then in November 2019, police began searching for Tylee and JJ in after relatives raised concerns.
Police say the Daybells lied to investigators about the children’s whereabouts before quietly leaving Idaho. They were found in Hawaii months later.
Tylee was last seen on September 8, 2019, when she went to Yellowstone National Park with her mother, her brother and Cox, court documents say.
In this June 9, 2020, aerial photo, investigators search for the human remains of JJ and Taylee at Chad Daybell’s residence in the 200 block of 1900 east, in Salem, Idaho
It is not clear what happened to her, but police say the next day Cox’s cellphone data shows he made a trip to Daybell’s property and was near the children’s bodies.
Also on September 9, 2021, investigators say Daybell texted Tammy, reportedly telling her he decided to burn some plants and also had shot a raccoon.
The detective said in the documents he was suspicious because raccoons are normally nocturnal and the text said the animal had been shot during the day.
Lori’s best friend Melanie Gibb said she was told Tylee was attending school at a nearby college, though investigators found the teen had never been enrolled.
Gibb also said JJ’s behavior appeared to be typical, despite his mother claiming he was acting strangely.
The last time Gibb saw JJ was September 22, 2019, at Lori’s apartment. Cox left with his nephew for his place nearby, Gibb told police, and when they returned, JJ appeared to be asleep, with his head on Cox’s shoulder.
The next morning, Gibb said JJ was gone and Lori said Cox had taken him for a while.
An analysis of Cox’s cellphone records that day shows his phone pinged at locations on Daybell’s property again.
It was those cellphone records that led police to the bodies of the children, officers said.
Daybell met Vallow in 2018 and the two quickly became close, according to investigators.
Within a short time, they were traveling to meet each other, and at one point Daybell wrote a story for her based on two characters who met at a religious conference.
By May of 2019, Lori was looking at gemstones online similar to the ones that would later be in their wedding rings.
Daybell and Vallow communicated with each other using code names or pet names like Lili, Bubby, Raphael and sometimes eschewed standard text messaging.
Instead they used ‘burner’ phones or messaging systems inside of a popular karaoke phone application, according to computer and phone files found by investigators.
As their relationship grew, so did their cult-like religious beliefs, according to investigators.
Several family members and friends interviewed by detectives described them as having a strange doomsday-focused belief system.
At times as many as 10 people were part of the loose religious group that met to pray, drive out evil spirits and seek revelations from ‘beyond the spiritual veil’.
Though the beliefs Vallow’s friends described to detectives were loosely based on theology from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they were extreme.
Daybell sits in prison awaiting trial, currently scheduled for January 2023. Prosecutors have sought the death penalty.
They have cited the fact all his alleged crimes were committed for remuneration – life insurance and social security payments – as aggravating circumstances.
Timeline of Lori Vallow’s and Chad Daybell’s alleged crimes
July 11, 2019: Lori Vallow’s husband, Charles Vallow, is killed by her brother, Alex Cox, in Arizona. Police initially rule that Alex acted in self defense but reopen the case months later after the children are reported missing.
August, 2019: Lori moves children JJ and Tylee to Rexburg, Idaho, close to where her future husband Chad Daybell lives with his wife Tammy.
September 8, 2019: Tylee is seen alive for the last time during a trip to Yellowstone National Park with Lori, JJ and Alex. In the following weeks Lori tells people that her daughter is studying at Brigham Young University’s Idaho campus.
September 23, 2019: The last time JJ is seen at his school in Rexburg. Lori emails the school the following day claiming she is moving the family to California for a new job.
October 2, 2019: Brandon Boudreaux, the ex-husband of Lori’s niece Melani Pawlowski, is targeted in a drive-by shooting in Arizona. Police identify the vehicle carrying the shooter as a Jeep registered to Charles Vallow, Lori’s late husband.
October 19, 2019: Chad’s wife Tammy, 49, dies at their Idaho home. An obituary states that she passed away peacefully in her sleep. Chad declines an autopsy and her death is listed as due to natural causes.
October 25, 2019: A friend of Tylee receives a vague ‘miss you’ text from her phone but says that it didn’t sound like the teen.
November 5, 2019: Lori and Chad tie the knot on a beach in Kauai. Receipts indicate that Lori purchased her own wedding ring from Amazon nearly three weeks prior to Tammy’s death.
November 26, 2019: Out-of-state relatives ask Idaho police to perform a welfare check on JJ. Lori and Chad claim he is in Arizona with relatives and ask their friend, Melanie Gibb, to lie and say she took the boy there for Thanksgiving. Police soon learn that no one has seen JJ or Tylee, since September.
November 27, 2019: Police execute a search warrant related to the children at Lori’s home and discover that she and Chad have fled Idaho.
December 11, 2019: Tammy’s body is exhumed from a Utah cemetery and her death is reclassified as suspicious.
December 12, 2019: Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, is found dead in a bathroom in his Arizona home. Months later an autopsy determines that he died of natural causes while he had the overdose drug Narcan in his system.
December 21, 2019: Rexburg police issue the first press release about JJ and Tylee, revealing they believe their disappearance could be linked to Tammy’s death and asking the public for information.
December 24, 2019: Lori and Chad issue a statement through an attorney saying they love their son and daughter and look forward to addressing ‘allegations once they have moved beyond speculation and rumor’.
December 30, 2019: Police accuse Lori and Chad of lying to investigators and say they believe the couple know where the kids are or what happened to them.
January 3, 2020: Police search Chad’s home in Salem and remove 43 items, including tech devices and journals. They also comb over sections of the snow-covered yard with rakes and metal detectors.
January 26, 2020: Lori and Chad are seen for the first time in months as police serve them with two search warrants in Kauai. Lori is also served with a court order to produce the children to authorities in Idaho in five days. The couple are approached by the media while officers serve the documents and refuse to say anything about the children.
January 30, 2020: Lori misses the court deadline to produce the children to Idaho authorities.
February 20, 2020: Lori is arrested in Kauai and charged with two felony counts for desertion and nonsupport of dependent children, and one misdemeanor count each for resisting and obstructing an officer, solicitation of a crime, and contempt of court.
March 5, 2020: Lori is extradited to Idaho, where she is held on $1million bond at Madison County Jail.
March 17, 2020: Lori professes her innocence in a statement through her attorney as two other members of her defense team quit and the judge removes himself from the case.
March 24, 2020: Court documents filed in the divorce of Lori’s niece Melani and her husband Brandon Boudreaux allege that Lori told people she believed her children were zombies before they disappeared.
April 9, 2020: Authorities reveal they are investigating Lori and Chad for murder, attempted murder and conspiracy in connection with Tammy’s death.
June 9, 2020: Police search Chad’s home in Salem for the second time and discover human remains in the backyard. Chad is taken into police custody and charged with destruction or concealment of evidence.
May 25, 2021: Lori and Chad are charged with first degree murder in the deaths of the children. Chad is also charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife Tammy.
May 27, 2021: Lori is deemed incompetent to stand trial on the murder charges in Idaho.
August 5, 2021: Prosecution announces it will seek the death penalty for Chad.
April 11, 2022: Lori is restored competency. Criminal proceedings against her in Ohio are ordered to continue.
April 14, 2022: Lori is taken to the Madison County Jail in Rexburg, Idaho, by Fremont County Sheriff officers