Following a two-day preliminary hearing that heard gruesome recountings of the discovery of the kids’ bodies, the judge ruled that the state had met its burden of probable cause.
Chad Daybell, the infamous, zombie-obsessed “cult dad” and new husband of “doomsday mom” Lori Vallow, 47, will soon be arraigned in district court as he stands charged with conspiring with his wife to hide the dead bodies of her two children, East Idaho News reports.
The legal proceeding was focused strictly on whether Chad Daybell helped conceal the bodies of the children of his wife, Lori. It did not focus on how the children died.
Judge Farren Eddins presided over a two-day preliminary hearing in Fremont County, Idaho, that began Monday morning and heard from numerous witnesses — this included friends of Chad and Lori’s, FBI agents, and Idaho law enforcement — regarding evidence backing the charges against Chad Daybell, 52. Thirty-one exhibits were entered into the court record, including shocking recordings of Lori and Chad lying to investigators and to her highly suspicious close friend Melanie Gibb about the whereabouts of her two children (whose bodies were buried in Chad’s backyard). The kids had last been seen in the east Idaho area in September. Authorities first ascertained they were missing in late November.At the end of the afternoon on Tuesday, Judge Eddins ruled that state prosecutors had met the burden of probable cause, and therefore Chad’s case would advance to district court, with an arraignment scheduled for August 21. This meant that there was probable or sufficient evidence that Daybell committed the crimes he’s been charged with, namely conspiring with Lori to shield from investigators the location of her children’s bodies.
Following a sprawling six-month investigation during which Lori’s two children were officially considered missing, a swarm of dozens of FBI and other law enforcement agents descended onto Chad Daybell’s Salem, Idaho, property on June 9 and launched a two-day search. Aided by cell phone location data indicating the whereabouts of the phone of Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, on two key days in September, the investigators soon discovered the buried bodies of Tylee Ryan, 17, and JJ Vallow, 7. Attendees of this week’s hearing would learn gruesome details about the state of each of the corpses — JJ’s was wrapped in garbage bags and tightly wound in duct tape, and Tylee’s was desecrated and burned — when they were exhumed.
Chad Daybell was promptly arrested following the discovery of the first body — JJ’s — and was charged with two felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence, and two felony counts of destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence for hiding the children’s bodies. Lori, 47, who was arrested in late February and charged with deserting her kids, would soon receive the same charges — and would have the child-desertion charges dropped, given that Tylee and JJ had been confirmed dead.Lori’s preliminary hearing, at which the state will seek to prove probable cause for the charges against her, is set for August 10.
As The Daily Beast reported, on Tuesday the court heard a recording of a three-minute telephone call Lori Vallow made from jail in Madison County on June 9 to Chad Daybell. On the call, Chad, sounding morose, told a plaintive Lori that the detectives were searching the property for evidence. Soon after, JJ’s body would be uncovered. “Are they seizing stuff again?” Lori asked her husband of eight months, given that this was not the first time that investigators had searched the property. They previously seized various items containing digital data. “What can I do for you?”
Mumbling throughout the conversation, Chad said to his wife, “I’m not really supposed to be talking to you.” He went on to say that the investigators were “searching for the kids” — meaning their bodies. Belying the extreme gravity of the moment, Daybell told Lori, “I’m feeling pretty calm.” The two repeatedly told one another “I love you.”During this week’s two-day hearing, Lori’s close friend Melanie Gibb testified that Lori and Chad first met in 2018. At that time, Lori was still married to her fourth husband, Charles Vallow, 63, and living in Arizona. Chad was still married to his wife of nearly three decades, Tammy Daybell, 49, and living in Salem. Melanie, Lori and Chad were all involved in the Preparing the People group, which is interested in anticipating Armageddon and which is an unofficial offshoot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Melanie testified that Lori and Chad quickly became “infatuated” with one another and met in various places prior to Lori moving with Tylee and JJ — with Alex Cox in tow — to Rexburg, Idaho, at the beginning of September 2019 so she could be near Chad.
But before Chad and Lori tied the knot on November 5, a body count of four people close to them would accumulate. Alex shot Charles to death in July 2019 in Arizona, ostensibly in self defence. During this week’s hearing, FBI agents testified that based on Alex’s cell phone location data, he allegedly transported Tylee’s body from the apartment complex in Rexburg where both he and Lori had homes to Chad’s property on the morning of September 9. Then Alex allegedly repeated this grim exercise on September 23 with Tylee’s body. (The agents testified that the evidence suggested that the children were murdered. But this week’s hearing was not directly concerned with exactly how JJ and Tylee died nor who killed them, just with the allegation that Chad conspired to hide their bodies.) Then, on October 19, Tammy died. Chad said she went in her sleep.
There was yet one more body to fall in the strange and twisted tale of Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow. Alex went on to die of a blood clot in his lung in December. That same month, investigators exhumed Tammy’s body to perform an autopsy, the results of which are still pending.
On November 26, responding to a concerned call from the biological grandparents of JJ (whom Lori adopted with Charles), Kay and Larry Woodcock, Rexberg police officers visited Alex’s apartment and then Lori’s to perform a welfare check on the young boy, who had autism. As body camera recordings played in court this week would indicate, Chad happened to be at Alex’s place at the time that police officers knocked on the door of Lori’s brother. Daybell proceeded to act as if he barely knew the woman he had married three weeks prior — a fact that the police already knew — and at first professed not to have her phone number.
When reached at her home, Lori lied to the police and said that JJ was staying with Melanie in Arizona and that Tylee was off studying at a Brigham Young University campus. (A dean from BYU testified on Monday that Tylee was never enrolled there.) Chad Daybell’s new wife then launched into a tirade about how a brother of hers living in Kansas — not Alex — had been conspiring with the late Charles to kill her, and that Kay was conspiring to kidnap JJ in the wake of Charles’ death. Lori lamented that Kay, who is Charles’ sister, had seen to it that her brother’s $1 million life insurance policy had been switched from Lori’s name to her own just before he died — neglecting to mention that Charles had filed for divorce in February, complaining to family court in Arizona that he feared for his life where the apparently mentally ill Lori was concerned. Lori told the police officers that she in fact hoped that nobody would find her there in Rexburg.
As Inside Edition notes, neither Lori nor Chad have yet been charged with murder. But they have been under investigation for months in connection to the expansive body count that surrounds their catastrophic, cult-centered marriage. Melanie has previously reported that Chad seduced Lori into believing that Charles, Tylee and JJ were all zombies. Indeed, on Tuesday, Melanie’s boyfriend, David Warwick, testified that when he and Melanie were staying with Lori in Rexburg for a few days last fall — the last day of their stay was September 23, the day JJ is believed to have been murdered and buried — Lori told him that JJ was “acting like a zombie.” The last time either Melanie or David saw the little boy, they testified this week, was when Alex was carrying him to bed — apparently at the uncle’s own separate apartment — the night of September 22.On Tuesday, the court learned of a text message that Chad sent Tammy on the morning of September 9. The suggestion was that he had sent this text in an effort to cover up the effort by him and Alex, the brother of Lori, to desecrate and conceal the kids’ bodies on the Daybell property. “Well, I’ve had an interesting morning! I felt I should burn all of the limb debris by the fire pit before it got too soaked by the coming storms,” Chad texted, according to an FBI agent’s testimony. “While I did so, I spotted a big raccoon along the fence. I hurried and got my gun, and he was still walking along. I got close enough that one shot did the trick. He is now in our pet cemetery. Fun times!”
Immediately after investigators unearthed JJ’s body on June 9, law enforcement agents moved to arrest Chad, but he sped off in his SUV in an attempt to evade capture. As the bodies were being dug up, Daybell was apprehended less than a mile away, arrested, and booked into the Fremont County jail, where he’s remained during the nearly two months since. Both he and Lori have been given $1 million bonds.
At Monday’s hearing, Melanie recounted how immediately after investigators questioned Lori and Chad about JJ’s whereabouts in late November, Chad called her and asked her not to pick up if the Rexburg police called. Lori then asked Melanie to corroborate the lie she’d told police that JJ was back in Arizona with Melanie, the New York Post reports. At first Melanie heeded her friend’s demands, but soon began aiding the police officers and the FBI in their extensive investigation into Lori and Chad and their search for her children. Once the bodies were found, Melanie would give media interviews highly critical of Chad and Lori.The court heard a stunning 21-minute recording Melanie made of her own accord in early December in which she called Lori and Chad Daybell and confronted them about their having asked her to lie to investigators. Melanie also expressed grave concerns about the couple’s spiritual well-being considering all the tragedies that kept occurring around them, including the mounting body count. During the call, Lori insisted to her dubious friend that JJ’s grandmother was threatening to kidnap him. And so, Lori claimed, the boy was in a secret location, where he was safe and happy. For his part, Chad asserted that his late wife, who is reported to have been training for a 5K run before she died, had grown “weaker and weaker” during the time leading up to her death and that she disliked doctors, and so received no medical care.