Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell, the mother and stepfather of two Idaho kids who were last seen in September 2019, were indicted on first-degree murder charges Tuesday in the children’s deaths.
Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan were 7 and 16 respectively when they disappeared.
Daybell was also indicted on a charge of first-degree murder and insurance fraud in the death of his then-wife Tammy Daybell.
Daybell is a self-published author who has written more than two dozen books about near-death and doomsday events, and multiple people close to Vallow have raised red flags about her bizarre doomsday beliefs and mental state.
Indictments released Tuesday said the couple “did endorse and espouse religious beliefs for the purpose of encouraging and/or justifying the homicides” of Tylee, Joshua and Tammy Daybell.
During Daybell’s first court appearance Wednesday, he was informed of the charges he faces and potential sentences. His arraignment is scheduled for June 9.
Vallow also appeared in court Wednesday, but Judge Faren Eddins said the hearing would be postponed at the request of Vallow’s attorney based on “information provided to the court.” He didn’t elaborate or set a new date.
Attorneys for Vallow and Daybell did not immediately return a request for comment. If convicted, they could face life in prison or the death penalty. Prosecutors in Idaho have 60 days to decide whether they will pursue the death penalty.
“Local, state and federal law enforcement professionals and local and state prosecutors have worked tirelessly for nearly a year and a half to gather the facts and evidence necessary to bring forward charges on behalf of Tylee, JJ and Tammy,” Fremont County Prosecutor Lindsey Blake said in a statement Tuesday.
“Due to the ongoing safety restrictions imposed by the courts during the pandemic, we just recently were given permission to present information to the Grand Jury for their review. They deliberated and determined there is probable cause to believe that the Daybells willfully and knowingly conspired to commit several crimes that led to the death of three innocent people.”
Tylee was last seen on Sept. 8, 2019. Police were able to find a photo from that day of Tylee on a trip with Vallow, Vallow’s brother, Alex Cox, and Joshua to Yellowstone National Park, according to authorities.
Joshua, who had special needs, was last seen alive on Sept. 23, 2019 at Kennedy Elementary School in Rexburg. When police went to Vallow’s home to conduct a welfare check at the prompting of his grandmother in November, Joshua was nowhere to be found.
But Vallow and Daybell had never reported the children missing and did not cooperate with investigators before they fled the state, Rexburg police said.
They were found in Hawaii in January 2020, at which point authorities gave Vallow until the end of the month to “physically produce her children.” She did not, and was charged with two counts of desertion and nonsupport of dependent children.
In June 2020, Daybell was taken into custody after the remains of Vallow’s children were found on his property.
Daybell had previously been 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. He pleaded not guilty to these charges.
Vallow had previously been charged with misdemeanor resisting or obstructing officers, criminal solicitation to commit a crime and contempt of court. She pleaded not guilty to those charges.
Daybell and Vallow married weeks after Daybell’s first wife, Tammy Daybell was found dead in her home in October. She was 49.
Tammy Daybell’s death was initially ruled as natural but has since been classified as suspicious, and her remains were exhumed so an autopsy could be conducted. An autopsy was completed in February of this year, and her death was ruled a homicide, the indictments released Tuesday said.
Prosecutors said that Daybell and Vallow had exchanged text messages saying they believed that Tammy was “in limbo” and “possessed by a spirit named Viola” before she was killed.
Vallow’s fourth husband, Charles Vallow, also died in 2019. He was shot to death by Vallow’s brother, Alex Cox, in July during a confrontation in Chandler, Arizona. Cox claimed self-defense. The Maricopa County Medical Examiner in Arizona ruled the death a homicide.
Vallow and Cox were questioned by police but not charged.
Cox died in December of an apparent blood clot in his lung, The Associated Press reported. He was named by prosecutors Tuesday as a co-conspirator in the murders of Joshua, Tylee and Tammy Daybell.
Before Charles Vallow died, he filed for divorce, claiming in documents that his wife believed she was reincarnated and was a god sent to lead people during the second coming of Christ in July 2020, and she told her husband that if he got in her way, she would kill him.
Vallow’s third husband and Tylee’s father, Joseph Ryan, also expressed “real and serious concerns” in court documents in the midst of their divorce and custody battle. The documents said Vallow was ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation after she told social workers that “death would be an option before giving Tylee to her father, Mr. Joseph Ryan, even for a visit.”
Ryan died of an apparent heart attack in 2018. An online obituary said Ryan was 59.