Last June, Idaho police announced the tragic end to a long search: the remains of 7-year-old Joshua Jaxon “J.J.” Vallow and his big sister, 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, had been found on an Idaho property belonging to Chad Daybell, their mother’s new husband.
In the months after they vanished in September 2019, their mother, Lori Vallow, had absconded to Hawaii with Daybell — an author of apocalyptic novels with ties to an alleged doomsday group — and refused to cooperate with police.
Now, just shy of a year after the bodies were found, an Idaho grand jury has indicted Vallow, 47, on murder charges in connection with her children’s deaths. Daybell, 52, also faces murder charges in the children’s deaths and the suspicious death of his ex-wife.
The indictment is the latest twist in the sordid relationship between Vallow and Daybell, which has made international headlines as details of their ties to fringe doomsday beliefs and several suspicious deaths has become public over the last two years.
Fremont County Prosecutor Lindsey Blake said the indictment came almost a year after the remains were found because of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I want to assure everyone that despite the delays, we have been working diligently to pursue justice for the victims in this case, to ensure we have the evidence required to prove the facts beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law,” Blake said at a news conference Tuesday.
Vallow’s troubling tale began in July 2019, with the sudden death of her ex-husband, Charles Vallow, in Chandler, Ariz.
The Vallows had been estranged since January 2019 and Charles was suing for full custody of their son J.J. On July 11, 2019, Lori Vallow told police she and Charles got into a domestic dispute that grew physical. She said they tussled, and then her estranged husband grabbed a bat and began shouting at her. Her brother, Alex Cox, was also at the home during the fight and he shot Charles, killing him. Cox was never charged in his death and died in December 2019 of undisclosed causes.
In early September, Vallow moved from Arizona to Rexburg, Idaho, with her brother and her two children, according to a grand jury indictment reported by East Idaho News. There she likely connected with Daybell because of their similar religious beliefs.
Her late husband had told a divorce court that Lori Vallow believed she was a god sent to earth to prepare people for the second-coming of Jesus. She allegedly believed the end-of-days was due in mid-2020, KSAZ reported. Daybell, meanwhile, had written and self-published several apocalyptic novels. The pair appeared together on podcasts aimed at “helping to prepare the people of this Earth for the second coming of Jesus Christ.”
Daybell’s ex-wife, Tammy Daybell, also died in late 2019. Family members found the 49-year-old woman’s body in her home on Oct. 19, 2019, and officials initially deemed the death natural. But Daybell’s suspicious actions in the following weeks prompted police to reopen the investigation.
Then in September 2019, J.J. and Tylee suddenly stopped showing up to school and relatives reported that they had not seen or heard from the children.
Vallow never raised alarms when the children went missing. When extended family members told police that they had not seen or heard from J.J. for far too long, Vallow reassured authorities that the kids were staying with a family friend in Arizona. Police quickly learned that the story was a lie, but when they came back to Idaho to question Vallow again, she was gone. She had flown to Hawaii to marry Daybell.
In February 2020, Vallow was arrested in Hawaii on two counts of felony desertion of a child and several misdemeanors. Daybell was also arrested in June 2020 and charged with conspiracy to commit alteration, destruction or concealment of evidence.
Now, authorities say the couple conspired with Vallow’s brother, Cox, to commit three murders, resulting in the deaths of Tammy Daybell, J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan.
According to investigators, Daybell and Vallow “espouse[d] religious beliefs for the purpose of encouraging and/or justifying the homicide of” Tylee and J.J. They also exchanged texts that claimed Daybell’s ex-wife, Tammy, had been possessed by a spirit named “Viola.”
In addition to murder, Daybell and Vallow face charges for insurance fraud and social security fraud after allegedly continuing to cash social security checks meant for the children. Shortly before his ex-wife’s death, Daybell also signed paperwork to max out her life insurance policy, according to the indictment.
The indictment does not detail how police believe the murders took place.
Daybell and Vallow are scheduled to have their first virtual court appearance on Wednesday in Fremont County, Idaho.
Attorneys for Daybell and Vallow did not immediately return a request for comment, but the couple has denied wrongdoing in the past.