The mother of two kids who went missing and were found dead last year in Idaho and her new husband have been charged with murder in their deaths in a bizarre case involving doomsday religious beliefs.
Lori Vallow Daybell was indicted by a grand jury Monday with conspiracy and murder in connection with the deaths of her two youngest children, Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 17, said Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood in a news conference Tuesday.
Her husband, Chad Daybell, the two children’s stepfather, was also charged. He was also charged in connection to the murder of his former wife, Tammy Daybell, 49, who died under “suspicious circumstances” in 2019. Authorities grew suspicious when Chad Daybell remarried just two weeks later, and they had Tammy Daybell’s body exhumed in Utah in December.
The results of that autopsy have not been released.
The case has gained national attention due to spanning multiple states, death investigations and allegations of cult-like religious beliefs since police first announced in December 2019 that the children were missing.
In the court document unsealed in June 2020, police said that Lori Daybell’s friend, Melani Gibb, cooperated with authorities and told them that Vallow believed her children had become “zombies.”
According to the probable cause affidavit in Chad Daybell’s case, Gibb told authorities that Chad Daybell and Lori Daybell told her they were part of the “Church of the Firstborn” with a mission to lead the “144,000” mentioned in the Book of Revelation and to rid the world of “zombies.”
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The children’s bodies were found in June 2020 on the property of their step-father’s home, police said. Lori Daybell had been arrested in February of that year in Hawaii and Chad Daybell was arrested that month.
Both Daybells have been in jail since their arrests, awaiting trial on charges including conspiracy to destroy, alter or conceal evidence after prosecutors said they conspired to hide the children’s bodies. They have pled not guilty to these charges.
They have not yet had the opportunity to enter a plea on the murder charges and will have their first court appearance on the new charges on Wednesday.
The complex case began in 2018, according to the indictment, when Chad and Lori Daybell — both still married to other people — began espousing their apocolyptic system of religious belief. Things may have begun to publicly unravel in the summer of 2019, however, when Lori Daybell’s brother Alex Cox shot and killed her estranged husband, Charles Vallow, in suburban Phoenix.
In this Sept. 8, 2019, photo released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is Lori Vallow and her 7-year-old son JJ Vallow in Yellowstone National Park. (Photo: AP)
Cox asserted the shooting was in self-defense, and he was never charged in connection with Vallow’s death. At the time, Charles Vallow was seeking a divorce, saying his wife believed she had become a god-like figure who was responsible for ushering in the biblical end of times.
Shortly after Vallow’s death, the defendant and the children moved to Idaho, where Chad Daybell lived. He ran a small publishing company, putting fiction books he wrote about apocalyptic scenarios loosely based on the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He also recorded podcasts about preparing for the apocalypse, and friends said he claimed to be able to receive visions from “beyond the veil.”
At the time, Chad Daybell was married to Tammy Daybell, a school librarian who helped him run the publishing company. She died in October 2019 in her sleep of natural causes, her obituary said.
But authorities grew suspicious when Chad Daybell remarried just two weeks later to now Lori Daybell, and they had Tammy Daybell’s body exhumed for an autopsy in Utah in December 2019. The results of that autopsy have not been released.
Lori Vallow Daybell arrested: What to know about deaths, marriages surrounding mom of missing Idaho kids
Police first alerted the public that the children were missing in December 2019 after JJ’s grandmother hadn’t heard from the boy for months. Court documents allege that Lori Daybell told police that JJ was in Arizona when authorities performed a welfare check in November.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the case’s grand jury was unable to meet and progress slowed, despite its national interest.
“I want to assure everyone that despite the delays, we have been working diligently to pursue justice for the victims in this case, to ensure we have the evidence required to prove the facts beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law,” Fremont County Prosecutor Lindsey Blake said at the news conference, which occurred on what would have been JJ’s ninth birthday.
Chad Daybell will have his initial court appearance on the new charges Wednesday at 11 a.m and Lori Daybell will appear at 11:30 a.m., according to East Idaho News.
Contributing: Ryan Miller, USA TODAY; The Associated Press.
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