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Lori Vallow and her husband, Chad Daybell, have been indicted on first-degree murder charges in the deaths of her two children, nearly a year after the children’s bodies were found buried on Daybell’s Idaho property.
Prosecutors announced Tuesday that the couple is now facing charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of Vallow’s children Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 16, according to a joint press release obtained by People from Fremont County prosecutor Lindsey Blake and Madison County prosecutor Rob Wood.
Daybell is also facing murder charges in the death of his first-wife, Tammy Daybell, who died under suspicious circumstances in October 2019, and two counts of insurance fraud related to her death.
Vallow also has been charged with grand theft related to social security survivor benefits of over $1,000 she collected for the care of her children, although they had already disappeared at the time, prosecutors said.
“Freemont Prosecutor Lindsey Blake and I believe all three homicides and the related financial crimes were committed as part of a continuing criminal scheme,” Wood said. “The unprecedented cooperation among law enforcement has been a model of cooperation, diligence and commitment. Every person who has worked on this case is to be commended for their diligence and steadfast pursuit of justice for Tammy, Tylee and JJ.”
Blake said that prosecutors “worked tirelessly for nearly a year” to gather the necessary facts and evidence to bring the case before a grand jury—which ultimately decided there was probable cause to “believe the Daybells willfully and knowingly conspired to commit several crimes that led to the death of three innocent people.”
According to an indictment in the case obtained by Oxygen.com, prosecutors believe the couple “did endorse and espouse religious beliefs for the purposes of encouraging and/or justifying” the murders before carrying out the brutal acts.
Ryan was last seen during a family outing with her mom, brother and uncle, Alex Cox, at Yellowstone National Park on Sept. 8, 2019, according to an earlier affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com.
Cell phone data later put Cox—who died himself in December of 2019—inside Vallow’s home in the early morning hours of Sept. 9, 2019 before it tracked him to Daybell’s property, where the teen's body was later discovered buried, later that same morning.
Less than a month before Ryan disappeared, prosecutors said her mother changed the deposit of her social security benefits from Ryan’s own bank account into her own personal bank account, according to the indictment.
Vallow’s young son, JJ, was last seen several weeks later on Sept. 22, 2019. Once again, cell phone data put Cox on Daybell’s property the following day.
Authorities began to investigate the disappearances several months later in November 2019 after JJ Vallow’s grandparents, Kay and Larry Woodcock, contacted police to request a welfare check on the young boy.
Vallow allegedly lied to investigators about the boy’s whereabouts before she and Daybell fled to Hawaii, where she was later arrested in February 2020 on charges of desertion.
The indictment in the case also provides new details in the death of Daybell’s first wife Tammy, 49, a school librarian who died in her home on Oct. 19, 2019.
According to prosecutors, in July 2019, months before Tammy's death, Vallow and Chad Daybell had been texting each other “regarding death percentages” for both Tammy and JJ.
The couple allegedly later texted about Tammy being in “limbo” and being possessed by a spirit named Viola.
Vallow’s friend Melanie Gibb told police that Vallow also believed both her daughter and son had turned into a “zombie,” before their deaths, according to the affidavit.
Gibb told police that the couple used the term “zombie” to refer to someone whose mortal spirit had left their body and was instead a host for another “dark spirit.” Gibb told authorities the couple’s mission had been to rid the world of these "zombies."
Just over a month before Tammy died, Chad signed an application along with his wife to increase her life insurance to the “maximum allowed under the policy.”
And days before she died, investigators believe there had been an attempt on her life. Authorities said Cox “attempted to shoot” Tammy on Oct. 9, 2019 and had been to the shooting range in the preceding months to practice his aim, according to the indictment.
He also allegedly conducted an internet search about how to shoot through a Dodge Dakota.
Cox was tracked to a parking lot just 2.5 miles from the Daybell home on Oct. 18, 2019, the night before Tammy was discovered dead.
Earlier this year, investigators announced that an autopsy had been completed on the mother of five but declined to release her cause of death citing the ongoing investigation.
Chad claimed his wife had passed away peacefully in her sleep, according to East Idaho News.
Chad and Vallow are both already behind bars in connection with earlier charges in the case. Both are facing felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence after the discovery of the children’s remains on Daybell’s property. They have pleaded not guilty to those charges against them.
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