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Lori Vallow Daybell’s Son J.J.’s Cause of Death Revealed in Court
The cause of death for Lori Vallow Daybell’s 16-year-old daughter, Tylee Ryan, remains undetermined, Dr. Garth Warren told a Boise jury.
Warning: This story deals with violence committed against children.
Dr. Garth Warren testified on Wednesday that J.J. was asphyxiated with a plastic bag and duct tape, which had been wrapped around his face and mouth, according to the East Idaho News. It was the first time the autopsy results had been made public since the bodies of J.J. and his 16-year-old sister, Tylee Ryan, were found on the property of Vallow Daybell’s husband, Chad Daybell, in 2020.
The autopsy was conducted two days after the grisly discovery. Officials had previously speculated the 7-year-old had been asphyxiated. J.J. sustained bruises to his ankles and wrist where he’d been restrained with duct tape. He was wearing red pajamas when investigators found his remains.
"Was J.J. trying to get the bag off his head?" Warren asked aloud in court, per the East Idaho News. “It could be scratch marks of him trying to get it off his head."
On the trial’s 16th day, graphic autopsy images of both J.J. and Tylee were displayed for the jury. According to the East Idaho News, Vallow Daybell stared away from the morbid images when they were displayed on a screen at the defense table.
Results for Tylee’s post-mortem examination, however, came back inconclusive, according to Warren. The autopsy, which took several days, was hindered, he told the court, due the 16-year-old’s remains not being wholly intact. Prosecutors had previously said the teen was dismembered and her remains were later set on fire prior to her being buried on Chad Daybell’s property.
"This autopsy was different," Warren said. "The vast majority of the time when I perform an autopsy, I get an entire body and there's a process we go through. Tylee's case was different. Her remains were received in three separate sealed bags."
Warren ultimately ruled the teen’s death “homicide by unspecified means,” according to East Idaho News reporter Nate Eaton. He’d testified that he was unable to find any discernible evidence the Idaho teenager had been shot or stabbed.
Dr. Angi Christensen, a forensic anthropologist who examined Tylee’s bones, later took the stand for the state. She testified that she observed “external force” had been imposed on some of the teen’s bones, which she said typically denotes dismemberment. The bone trauma expert also told the jury she observed thermal damage to Tylee’s jaw bone.
Vallow Daybell is also charged with conspiracy in the murder of Tammy Daybell, Chad Daybell’s ex-wife, who authorities say also died by asphyxiation.
A Rexburg, Idaho police detective previously testified about the moment authorities recovered J.J.’s decomposing body from Chad Daybell’s property.
"I saw a little boy in red pajamas," Det. Ray Hermosillo told the court. "He had a white plastic bag around his head. Several layers of duct tape from chin to his forehead area. His arm was duct taped with several layers. [His arms] were folded across his chest. His feet were also duct taped and bound."
"Underneath that white plastic bag was another layer of duct tape across his mouth from jaw line to jaw line," Hermosillo added.
The Rexburg investigator also recounted the disturbing scene when detectives uncovered Tylee’s remains after cell phone data led law enforcement to Chad Daybell’s property in search of the siblings.
"A few of us got on our hands and knees and began digging around this moist section of dirt," Hermosillo said. "We eventually uncovered bits and pieces of Tylee — whom we assumed it was Tylee — that had been burned. There were pieces of bone, charred flesh, just globs of flesh that were falling apart.”
Vallow Daybell could serve life in prison if found guilty in the killings of J.J. and Tylee. If convicted, Vallow Daybell won’t face the death penalty, per a judge’s pre-trial ruling. Chad Daybell will be tried separately at a later date.