Lori Vallow, the Idaho mother accused of killing two of her children and conspiring to kill her husband’s first wife, was convicted on all charges Friday, ending a weekslong murder trial that heard about evil spirits, zombies and doomsday prophecies.
The jury in Boise unanimously reached its decision. Vallow was charged with murder, conspiracy and grand theft in the deaths of Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 16.
She stood next to her attorneys as the verdict was read and remained silent.
Joshua and Tylee vanished in September 2019. Their disappearance sparked a monthslong search that ended in June 2020 when police found their remains on a property belonging to Vallow’s fifth and current husband, Chad Daybell.
Daybell was arrested and charged with murder and conspiracy in connection with the children’s deaths. He will have a separate trial that has not been scheduled yet.
Witnesses have testified that the couple were deeply involved in a doomsday belief system, claiming they were seeing “zombies” and demonic possession all around them.
They are also both charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the death of Daybell’s first wife, Tammy Daybell. He faces additional charges of murder and insurance fraud.
They have both pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Prosecutors and defense paint very different pictures of Vallow
The prosecution described Vallow as a woman who would “remove any obstacle in her way” and would use “money, power, and sex to get what she wanted.”
“It didn’t matter what it was,” Fremont County Prosecutor Lindsey Blake told jurors at the beginning of the trial.
She said that Tylee, Joshua and Tammy Daybell were all killed because they got in the way of Vallow and Daybell’s relationship.
“Remember, the defendant will remove any obstacle in her way to get what she wants, and she wanted Chad Daybell,” Blake said.
Vallow’s defense team, however, argued that she is a “kind and loving mother to her children” who happened to take an interest in religion and biblical prophecies about the end of the world.
“Some people care less about biblical prophecies, some people care a lot about it. Thankfully in this country, we get to worship as we choose,” defense attorney Jim Archibald said.
He told the jurors that based on the charges — which accuse Vallow of either directing, encouraging, assisting or participating in the murders — it shows that prosecutors do not really know what happened.
“Did she kill or did she assist or did she encourage or did she direct? They aren’t sure,” he said.
Witnesses describe zombie claims, finding remains
Idaho police started investigating Vallow and Daybell, a doomsday author, in November 2019 after family members reported the two children missing. The couple refused to cooperate with the investigation and left the state; they were later found in Hawaii and extradited to Idaho.
Authorities would find remains of the children on Daybell’s property in Fremont County, Idaho. Court documents said that Joshua, who was adopted and had special needs, was buried in a pet cemetery, and that Tylee’s remains were dismembered and burned in a fire pit.
Throughout the trial, several witnesses took the stand for the prosecution. The defense did not call any witnesses and Vallow chose not to testify.
Rexburg police detective Ray Hermosillo told jurors that Joshua’s arms were visibly bruised after his partially decomposed body was found buried near a tree. The child, wearing red pajamas and socks, had duct tape covering his mouth and binding his arms and legs together. Black plastic covered his remains. Hair belonging to Vallow was found on a piece of duct tape used to wrap the boy, a DNA analyst testified.
Tylee’s remains had been destroyed and burned, packed into a melted green bucket and buried elsewhere on the property, according to the detective.
Another witness to take the stand was Vallow’s former friend, Melanie Gibb. Vallow tried to use Gibb as her alibi and told police investigating the children’s disappearance that Joshua was visiting her in Arizona.
Gibb told the court that Vallow believed some people were “zombies” or possessed by evil spirits, including her two younger children and her fourth husband, Charles Vallow. Joshua was the grandnephew of Charles Vallow, who along with Lori Vallow adopted the child.
Charles Vallow was shot and killed at his Arizona home by Vallow’s brother, Alex Cox, in July 2019. Cox — who died in 2019 of what was reported as natural causes — claimed it was self-defense. But in 2021, Vallow was indicted on a charge of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in Charles Vallow’s death. She has not yet had the opportunity to enter a plea in that case.
Gibb said that after Charles Vallow’s death, Vallow had a hard time taking care of Joshua and felt that she did not have enough time with Daybell. The family moved from Arizona to Idaho, Gibb testified, and that’s when Vallow began claiming that Joshua was possessed.
More on the Lori Vallow case
Colby Ryan, Vallow’s adult son, also testified and suggested that someone pretending to be Tylee would send him text messages from her phone after she disappeared. He told jurors that she regularly texted him and that the tone and punctuation of the messages changed after his sister vanished, but before she was reported missing.
Jurors also heard a recorded phone conversation of Ryan confronting his mother. He accused her of murdering his siblings, Joshua and Tylee, and then lying to him.
“To know that they’re gone, and you knew! And my phone is being texted by my little sister, who’s not even alive!” Ryan said. “My poor brother, who is the sweetest little kid ever — for what purpose? You tell me this is God’s will: For my whole family, including my stepfather, to be dead.”
In the call, Vallow denied killing the children and told Ryan that everything would become clear in the afterlife.
Testimony about Tammy Daybell’s bruises and time of death
The trial also focused on the 2019 death of Tammy Daybell. Prosecutors said Vallow was already in a relationship with Daybell while he was still married to Tammy Daybell and moved to eastern Idaho to be closer to him.
Daybell and Vallow married weeks after Tammy Daybell died.
Utah’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Erik Christensen, testified that bruises were discovered on Tammy Daybell’s body and that she may have been restrained when she died, according to NBC affiliate KSL of Salt Lake City. He also said he believes she died hours before Daybell reported her death, the news station reported.
Her death was initially considered to be of natural causes, but authorities had her body exhumed and an autopsy determined it was a homicide and that she died of asphyxiation.