Prosecutors accused a man of conspiring with his new wife to keep the bodies of her children hidden on his rural Idaho property, adding to the charges he faces in the strange case that involves the couple's doomsday beliefs and the mysterious deaths of their former spouses.
In new charges filed Tuesday evening, prosecutors say Chad Daybell conspired with wife Lori Vallow Daybell to keep hiding the bodies of 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan because they knew the remains would likely be used as evidence in a court case.
The children vanished in September and a search for them spanned months before their bodies were found last month in Chad Daybell's backyard. It's not clear how the kids died or who caused their deaths.
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Chad Daybell is already in jail on previous charges that he buried or helped bury the kids, first dismembering and burning Tylee's body in an apparent attempt to hide the remains. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges and is being held on $1 million bail.
Lori Daybell is also charged with conspiring to hide the remains and is being held on $1 million bail. She was charged earlier this year with abandoning the children, obstructing the investigation into their disappearance and asking a friend to lie to police on her behalf. She has not yet entered a plea in either case.
Relatives of Tylee and JJ thanked people for their support, expressed their grief and asked for privacy in a joint statement Wednesday.
“We are utterly devastated trying to comprehend how our children, full of brilliant light and jubilance for life, ended at the hands of those who were supposed to love and protect them,” the families wrote.
The families said they have faith in the judicial system and are confident justice will prevail. They said public memorial services will be held at some point in Rexburg, Idaho, where the kids last lived; Phoenix, their home before Idaho; and Lake Charles, Louisiana, where JJ's grandparents live.
Investigators found the children's bodies by tracking the movements of Lori Daybell’s brother, Alex Cox, using cellphone data. Authorities haven't explained Cox's possible role in the children's disappearances or deaths and they searched Chad Daybell’s home again Monday but haven’t said what they were looking for.
Cox is also dead, succumbing to an apparent blood clot in his lung at his home in Arizona last December. In court documents, Rexburg police Lt. Ron Ball wrote that Cox also was involved in the conspiracy to hide the kids’ remains by taking JJ to Chad Daybell’s property the day the child was buried and by later telling police the boy was visiting his grandparents in Louisiana.
The documents also reference claims that the Daybells believed dark spirits, or “zombies,” would possess people. Lori Daybell reportedly told her friend Melanie Gibb at different times in 2019 that both JJ and Tylee had become zombies. Gibb said the Daybells also believed the only way to rid a person of a dark spirit was by killing them so the person could be at rest in the afterlife.
The complex case began last summer with Cox shooting and killing Lori’s estranged husband, Charles Vallow, in suburban Phoenix in what he asserted was self-defense. Vallow was seeking a divorce, saying Lori believed she had become a god-like figure who was responsible for ushering in the biblical end times.
Shortly after Vallow’s death, Lori and the children moved to Idaho, where Chad Daybell lived. He ran a small publishing company, putting out books he wrote about apocalyptic scenarios loosely based on the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He also recorded podcasts about preparing for the apocalypse, and friends said he claimed to be able to receive visions from “beyond the veil.”
He had been married to Tammy Daybell, who died in her sleep last October of what her obituary said were natural causes. Authorities grew suspicious when Chad Daybell married Lori just two weeks later, and they had Tammy Daybell’s body exhumed in Utah in December. The results of that autopsy have not been released.
Police began searching for Tylee and JJ in November after relatives raised concerns. Police say the Daybells lied to investigators about the children’s whereabouts before quietly leaving Idaho. They were found in Hawaii months later.