Lori Vallow’s husband, accused of ‘doomsday’ killing of kids, ex-wife, faces trial

In this Aug. 4, 2020, file photo, Chad Daybell listens during his preliminary hearing in St. Anthony, Idaho. Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell were each indicted by a grand jury Monday, May 24, 2021, on charges of conspiracy, murder and grand theft in connection with the deaths of Lori Daybell's two youngest children, 7-year-old Joshua "JJ" Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan. John Roark / The Idaho Post-Register via AP

Chad Daybell, the fifth husband of convicted murderer Lori Vallow Daybell, is set to face trial and answer charges of first-degree murder in the deaths of his ex-wife and current wife’s two children in a bizarre case that involves religious extremism and “doomsday” plots.

Vallow Daybell has already been sentenced to life in prison without parole for murdering her two youngest kids — 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan. She was also charged with conspiracy to murder Daybell’s ex-wife, Tammy, and has been accused of arranging her fourth husband’s murder so that she and Daybell could be together.

Click to play video: 'Lori Vallow Daybell, mom who killed her kids, handed 3 life sentences without possibility of parole'
Lori Vallow Daybell, mom who killed her kids, handed 3 life sentences without possibility of parole

Just under a year after his wife was sentenced, Daybell is set to appear in court, himself, for his alleged role in Tammy, JJ and Tylee’s deaths. Jury selection for the trial began Monday.

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Apart from three counts of first-degree murder, Daybell faces charges of insurance fraud and grand theft for allegedly using his ex-wife’s death and the deaths of Vallow Daybell’s two kids for financial gain.

If convicted, Daybell could face the death penalty. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The investigation into Daybell and Vallow Daybell began in late 2019 when several family members reported concerns to police that they hadn’t seen or spoken to JJ and Tylee in months. Their bodies were eventually found buried in Daybell’s yard in eastern Idaho in 2020.

This combination photo of undated file photos released by National Center for Missing & Exploited Children show once-missing children Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, left, and Tylee Ryan, 16. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children via AP

Friends of the couple would go on to tell police, and testify in court, that Vallow Daybell and Daybell held fringe religious beliefs, including that they had been reincarnated in order to gather people before a biblical apocalypse.

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Before Vallow Daybell’s two youngest children disappeared, she referred to them as “zombies,” former friend Melanie Gibb testified in court. The couple claimed that zombies were people who had been possessed by dark spirits, and the only way to free the person’s trapped soul was to destroy their body by killing them.

As Daybell faces trial, here are the facts of the case you should know.

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The murders

The story begins even before Vallow Daybell’s children were reported missing.

In early 2019, Vallow Daybell was still married to JJ’s father, Charles Vallow, but the two were estranged and he had filed for divorce.

In the divorce documents, Charles claimed his wife believed she was a god-like figure, sent to usher in the apocalypse and carry out the work of 144,000 believers, a reference to the Bible’s Book of Revelations.

Their marriage ended suddenly that July when Vallow Daybell’s brother, Alex Cox, shot and killed Charles outside the family’s suburban Phoenix home. Police initially determined the shooting was in self-defence and Cox was never charged. Cox died five months later of a blood clot.

Charles was Vallow Daybell’s fourth husband. Her third husband Joseph Ryan, who was the father of Tylee, died in 2018 of a heart attack.

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Vallow Daybell has since been charged with conspiring to kill Charles and has been extradited to Arizona to stand trial. She is set to appear in court April 4.

Lori Vallow Daybell stands and listens as the jury’s verdict is read at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise, Idaho on Friday May 12, 2023. The Idaho jury convicted Daybell of murder in the deaths of her two youngest children and a romantic rival, a verdict that marks the end of a three-year investigation that included bizarre claims of zombie children, apocalyptic prophesies and illicit affairs. AP Photo/Kyle Green

After Charles was killed, Vallow Daybell and the kids moved to eastern Idaho, where JJ’s grandparents said they struggled to reach him by phone. JJ’s grandparents said they last spoke to their grandson on August 2019 during a FaceTime call that lasted less than a minute, NBC reported. They eventually grew suspicious and called police.

In November 2019, Idaho police formally began to search for JJ and Tylee after several family members reported they hadn’t seen or spoken to the children since September.

At this point, Vallow Daybell had already begun a relationship with Daybell, an Idaho man that ran a small company where he self-published fiction books about apocalyptic scenarios loosely based on the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The pair married two weeks after Daybell’s ex-wife died under mysterious circumstances.

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Police in Rexburg, Idaho tried to conduct a welfare check on Vallow’s children on Nov. 26, 2019, but they were nowhere to be found. The couple lied to police and said JJ was in Arizona with a family friend.

A months-long search for the missing children followed, spanning several states. Police determined Tylee was last seen in September headed into Yellowstone National Park with her mom and other family members for a day trip. JJ was last seen by school officials several days later.

Vallow Daybell was ordered to physically produce the children to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare by the end of the month, but when she failed to do so, Vallow was arrested for child desertion.

Months later, in June 2020, police finally located the bodies of the children buried in the yard of Daybell’s eastern Idaho home.

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Daybell was promptly arrested for charges of destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence, as well as desertion. Vallow Daybell and Daybell weren’t charged with murder until May 2021.

Court documents later revealed that JJ’s remains were found buried in a pet cemetery on Daybell’s property and that Tylee had been dismembered and burned in a fire pit.

In this aerial photo, investigators search for human remains at Chad Daybell’s residence in the 200 block of 1900 East, Tuesday, June 9, 2020, in Salem, Idaho. Authorities say they uncovered human remains at Daybell’s home as they investigated the disappearance of his new wife’s two children. (John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register via AP)

‘Zombies’ and doomsday plots

When the bodies were found, Vallow Daybell’s longtime best friend Melanie Gibb had already been cooperating with authorities for months, according to Rexburg police documents written by Lt. Ron Ball.

“Gibb reports that when she arrived in Rexburg, Lori Vallow informed her that JJ Vallow had become a ‘zombie,’” Ball wrote. “Gibb further reports that the term ‘zombie’ refers to an individual whose mortal spirit has left their body and that their body is now the host of another spirit. The new spirit in a ‘zombie’ is always considered a ‘dark spirit.’”

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Gibb said the couple believed that when a zombie takes over a person’s body, “the person’s true spirit goes into ‘limbo’ and is stuck there until the host body is physically killed,” the court document said. “As such, death of the physical body is seen as the mechanism by which the body’s original spirit can be released from limbo.”

Several family members and friends described to detectives a group led by Vallow Daybell and Daybell that met to pray, believing that they could drive out evil spirits and seek revelations from “beyond the spiritual veil.”

In police reports, one friend said Vallow Daybell told her she could “teleport” between Arizona and Hawaii, and that Daybell said he had a “portal” in his home where he could receive revelations and travel to other realms.

When the couple were eventually charged for murder, the indictment said the couple “did endorse and espouse religious beliefs for the purpose of encouraging and/or justifying the homicides” of Tammy, Tylee and JJ.

Prior to sentencing, Vallow Daybell spoke for the first time about her actions, insisting she was not guilty of murder and saying that she’s been visited by her victims from the afterlife.

“Jesus knows me, and Jesus understands me,” she said, adding that she mourns those who died. But, she added, “Jesus Christ knows that no one was murdered in this case.”

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Vallow Daybell justified the murders by “going down a bizarre religious rabbit hole, and clearly you are still down there,” the judge said during the hearing.

“I don’t think to this day you have any remorse for the effort and heartache you caused,” he said.

— with files from Global News’ Michelle Butterfield and the Associated Press

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