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Secretly Recorded Call Between Lori Vallow And Her Once Close Friend Played For Jurors
"I’m not telling anybody where he is, so I can keep him as safe as possible," Lori Vallow Daybell told key prosecution witness Melanie Gibb in a 2019 telephone call regarding Joshua "JJ" Vallow's whereabouts.
Prosecutors in court this week played a recorded phone call between Lori Vallow Daybell and a friend-turned-prosecution witness that took place months before she was charged with triple murder.
On Thursday, jurors in an Ada County courtroom listened to the secretly recorded phone call between Vallow Daybell and Melanie Gibb, her longtime friend, dating from December 2019.
Gibb took the stand to testify this week about the chain of events leading up and following the disappearance and deaths of Vallow Daybell’s children, 7-year-old son Joshua "JJ" Vallow and 16-year-old daughter Tylee Ryan, who the Idaho “cult mom,” along with husband, Chad Daybell, are accused of murdering.
The couple have pleaded not guilty.
What happened to JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan?
In 2020, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan were both found dead on the property of Chad Daybell. Their disappearances a year earlier had triggered nationwide headlines.
Tylee Ryan’s body had been severely burnt and dismembered. Her younger brother, JJ, was found bound with duct tape and wrapped in plastic. He was wearing red pajamas. The siblings’ exact causes and manners of death haven’t been publicly released.
Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell were arrested in 2020 and were both ultimately charged with their murders.
The Idaho couple are also accused of conspiring to murder Daybell’s former wife, Tammy Daybell, who was found dead of asphyxiation in October 2019, weeks before the pair fled to Hawaii, where they got married.
Chad Daybell is Vallow Daybell’s fifth husband.
Who is Melanie Gibb?
Gibb, who first befriended Vallow at a church event in 2018, has emerged as a star witness for the prosecution since Vallow Daybell’s highly anticipated trial got underway earlier this month.
The Idaho woman was first injected into the center of the case in 2019 when Vallow Daybell allegedly lied to investigators following JJ Vallow's disappearance, telling detectives that the 7-year-old boy was watching the Disney film “Frozen” with Gibb, according to The Idaho Statesman.
At the time, Gibb said she’d been led to believe that JJ Vallow was with his grandmother, The Daily Beast reported. She testified this week that Chad Daybell had asked her to not cooperate with Rexburg Police, admitting on the stand that she intentionally ignored phone calls from law enforcement when they attempted getting in touch with her. She ultimately got in touch with authorities.
“I wasn’t sure what in the world to do,” Gibb testified.
Gibb said the last time she saw JJ Vallow alive was in the evening hours of Sept. 22, 2019, per The Daily Beast. This is within the timeframe detectives believe the 7-year-old was murdered at Daybell’s rural property.
Notably, months later, Gibb would go on to secretly record the conversation between her in Vallow Daybell, which was played in court by prosecutors on Thursday.
Gibb surreptitiously recorded the call in question, she said, after becoming suspicious of Vallow Daybell’s shifting accounts regarding her children’s whereabouts. In the tense exchange, Gibb can be heard confronting an increasingly paranoid Vallow Daybell regarding the location of JJ.
“I had to move him somewhere else,” Vallow said on the Dec. 8 phone call. “The danger is that there are people after me.”
The recorded conversation had previously played in court during Chad Daybell’s preliminary hearing.
“If you knew, it would put you in danger,” Vallow said in her defense. “I’m not telling anybody where [JJ] is, so I can keep him as safe as possible. So nobody has to be questioned about it, so he can be safe.”
Vallow Daybell later vows her son was “safe and happy.”
Vallow Daybell also accused JJ Vallow’s grandmother, Kay Woodcock, of actively plotting against her in the recorded call, according to Fox News.
Gibb's latest court testimony this week has unveiled a series of new details regarding her estranged friendship with Vallow Daybell. Gibb, for instance, told jurors how Vallow Daybell spoke at length about “dark spirits,” recounting how her one-time pal claimed that Jesus Christ had appeared to her in a vision involving a temple.
What motivated the killings of JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan?
Prosecutors say Vallow and Daybell were partially motivated by extremist religious beliefs in carrying out the double murder — and had become all-consumed by bizarre prophecies involving dark energy and “zombies.”
The couple were also fixated on an apocalyptic event scenario and believed they’d been married in a previous life.
"The defendant used 'casting' that involved prayer and energy work," prosecutor Lindsay Blake, said in court on Monday, according to the East Idaho News. "Often this casting didn't work and the beliefs evolved to zombies. A common theme was the body had to be destroyed."
Vallow Daybell allegedly later became convinced JJ Vallow was a zombie.
"They also stated their mission was to rid the world of 'zombies,'" detective Ron Ball wrote in court papers.
“Money, power and sex” were also motivating factors in Tylee and JJ.’s slayings, according to prosecutors. Vallow Daybell and Daybell were dead-set on building a new life together — without Vallow Daybell’s children — in which the couple stood to benefit from their and Tammy Daybell’s deaths, via insurance payments, prosecutors said, according to NPR.
“The defendant used money, power and sex to get what she wanted,” Fremont County Prosecutor Lindsey Black said. “It didn’t matter what it was.”
Vallow is facing further conspiracy to commit murder charges in Arizona in connection with the death of her ex-husband, Charles Vallow, who was fatally shot by Vallow's brother, Alex Cox, in July 2019. Cox, who claimed the killing was committed in self-defense, died of natural causes later that same year.
If convicted in the triple murder case, Vallow Daybell faces up to life in prison. A judge previously ruled out the possibility she’d face the death penalty. Chad Daybell will be tried at a later date. A court date hasn’t yet been set.