Lori Vallow’s murder trial has heard a chilling call between the ‘doomsday cult mom’ and her husband Chad Daybell hours before police and FBI agents found the bodies of her two children in his yard.
Vallow, 49, made the call from Madison County Jail as Daybell, 54, watched investigators dig up his yard before they eventually uncovered the badly decomposed bodies of JJ Vallow, seven, and Tylee Ryan, 16.
In the call, Vallow tells Daybell, ‘I love you so much’. Daybell also gives the haunting remark, ‘I’m feeling pretty calm’.
Hours later, JJ and Tylee would be found in shallow graves where they’d been buried after the couple allegedly murdered them following the warped claim the children were ‘possessed and zombies’.
‘Doomsday cult mom’ Lori Vallow’s trial for the murders of her children JJ, 7, and Tylee, 16 started on Monday. She is pictured in August 2022
Vallow is accused of killing her kids, seven-year-old Joshua (JJ), left, and 16-year-old Tylee, right
Vallow allegedly murdered her children over three years ago after her religion led her to believe she would play an important role in a looming apocalypse, during which only 144,000 ‘chosen’ souls would survive.
The 49-year-old is also accused of conspiracy to murder Daybell’s ex-wife Tammy, 49. Daybell, a known apocalyptic author and self-proclaimed prophet, is set to face a separate trial over the killings. They deny the murders.
Soon after the third day of Vallow’s trial got underway, a chilling recording of the call from the morning the children’s remains were found was played to jurors. Vallow phoned Daybell from jail – where she was being held on child abandonment charges.
After Vallow greets Daybell: ‘Hi baby’, her husband is audibly distressed as he immediately responds: ‘They are searching the property… They’re out in the property.’
Vallow asks: ‘Are they seizing stuff again?’ Daybell responds: ‘They are searching.’
The haunting phone call was previously played during a court hearing for Chad Daybell two years ago.
Hours after the June 2020 phone conversation, investigators found the children in separate shallow graves. Jurors previously heard gruesome detail about the discovery of JJ and Tylee’s remains.
During the call, which Daybell took in his car as he observed the search, Vallow asks: ‘What do you want me to do? Just pray?’
Her husband replies, ‘yeah, pray.’ Vallow then asks Daybell, ‘what can I do for you?’
Daybell responds: ‘I’m feeling pretty calm. I would call Mark [Daybell’s son] maybe. Talk with him.’
The trial previously heard Mark Daybell answered the door holding a bowl of cereal when investigators arrived to carry out the warrant which eventually unearthed the bodies. Daybell was awoken by police who then sealed off his property and began the search.
The call ends as Daybell tells Vallow: ‘I love you so much.’ Vallow tells him, ‘I love you and we’ll talk soon’ and says she’ll try to call him later that day.
Shortly after, Daybell attempted to flee the scene in his car ‘at speed’ but investigators quickly caught up with him and he was detained.
Vallow spent much of the Wednesday morning’s court session jotting notes on a yellow pad. Her demeanor has shifted throughout the week from initially relaxed to visibly agitated at times. She was seen to exchange smiles with her defense team during the opening arguments on Monday, but by Wednesday the conversations with her legal team appeared more serious.
Relatives of Vallow’s ex-husband, Charles Vallow, attended court on Wednesday, including his son and ex-wife. Charles Vallow was shot dead by Vallow’s brother, Alex Cox, in July 2019.
‘Cult mom’ Lori Vallow pictured during a court hearing in March 2020
Vallow, 49, had been due to stand trial alongside her husband Chad Daybell, 54, but their cases were separated earlier this month
Day two of Vallow’s murder trial saw audible gasps erupt from the courtroom when horrific photos of JJ and Tylee’s remains were shown to jurors Tuesday afternoon.
The distressing images of her children’s remains saw Vallow petition the judge to be excused from the remainder of the day’s proceedings, which the judge denied.
Detective Ray Hermosillo, who was part of the team who searched for the children’s bodies, testified while photographs of the crime scene at Chad Daybury’s Idaho home were displayed to the court.
Hermosillo described how investigators found JJ’s remains wrapped in a plastic bag, and when a medical examiner removed the covering they saw the boy with ‘a thick layer of tape across his mouth, jawline to jawline.’
He was wearing red pajamas, a pull-up night diaper and covered in a blue child’s blanket.
Vallow spent much of the afternoon session slouched in her seat with her head propped up by her arm, in an apparent attempt to avoid eye contact with anyone else in the courtroom – a marked shift from her previously calm appearance during much of the proceedings.
JJ’s grandfather, Larry Woodcock, broke down and sobbed in the public gallery during the highly distressing testimony.
Hermosillo said: ‘Through the videos and pictures that we had seen of JJ for the last eight months… the tips coming in, everything we had obtained and looked at, I was able to recognize that same little boy lying on the table to be JJ Vallow. He had the same haircut.’
He added there ‘was some visible bruising on his arms that the medical examiner had pointed out to us.’
After JJ was found near a tree in the backyard, investigators discovered Tylee’s badly burned remains in the yard’s pet cemetery nearby.
Tylee’s remains were so badly damaged and burned that the coroner was unable to conduct an autopsy, the detective said.
Detective Ray Hermosillo, pictured arriving at the courthouse on April 10, 2023, was part of the team who found JJ and Tylee’s burnt bodies on Chad Daybell’s property
Chad Daybell, left, and Lori Vallow pictured at a car rental counter in Maui Airport, at the same time the mother’s children were missing
The ‘doomsday cult’ mom allegedly murdered the two youngsters after becoming obsessed with ideas of the apocalypse and the second coming of Christ, leading her to believe her children were ‘zombies’.
A web of mystery surrounds details of the case, with Vallow also accused of conspiracy to murder her husband and Chad Daybell’s ex-wife Tammy, 49.
Daybell – who will face a separate trial over the killings – was a doomsday ‘prepper’ who forged a reputation through books and talks about the end of the world. He was arrested in Hawaii alongside Vallow in February 2020 after the two fled to the islands while her children were still missing at the time.
Earlier in the second day of Vallow’s trial Tuesday, Hermosillo revealed in grisly detail how JJ’s remains were found by the FBI’s Evidence Response Team as they searched near a tree in the yard.
He described in gruesome detail how investigators had to take turns digging at the property because the smell of decomposing flesh was so unbearable.
The 22-year veteran of the force apologized to the court as he recounted the scene, because he was forced to use such vile language in the descriptions.
‘As they began to remove the top layer of soil, it began to expose three white rocks,’ said the detective. ‘At that point there was a strong odor. Through my experience, it was a decomposing body.’
He said more ‘wood paneling’ was ‘slowly and methodically’ removed from beneath the rocks, which revealed a ‘black, round object starting to protrude’.
The hole where JJ was buried was ‘just a few inches deep’.
‘They scraped away some more solid around the round object and it began to take the shape of – it looked like the crown of a head protruding from the dirt,’ the detective said.
The digging ‘exposed what appeared to be a small body wrapped in black plastic’.
Lori Vallow, right, pictured with her daughter Tylee
The burnt remains of Tylee Ryan, left, were so badly damaged that the coroner was unable to perform an autopsy
The detective’s harrowing testimony also included details of how investigators discovered Tylee’s burnt remains.
‘As we began digging we were on our hands and knees. We started to uncover just burnt flesh, charred bone, the smell was again of a decomposing body. We had to take turns digging because the smell was so bad. We could only dig for a couple of minutes.’
The team used paintbrushes and small trowels to carefully remove solid and ‘eventually we uncovered bits and pieces of Tylee – who we assumed was Tylee’.
‘The best I can describe was just blobs of flesh that were falling apart,’ Hermosillo said.
‘Once we removed some of that, under them there was another round blobs – I’m sorry, it’s the best I can describe it – just burnt flesh, what appeared to be put in a green bucket. The bucket was melted so it was kind of deformed.’
‘The flesh and bone was all kind of stuffed in that melting bucket,’ he said.
Timeline of Lori Vallow’s and Chad Daybell’s alleged crimes
July 11, 2019: Lori Vallow’s husband, Charles Vallow, is killed by her brother, Alex Cox, in Arizona. Police initially rule that Alex acted in self defense but reopen the case months later after the children are reported missing.
August, 2019: Lori moves children JJ and Tylee to Rexburg, Idaho, close to where her future husband Chad Daybell lives with his wife Tammy.
September 8, 2019: Tylee is seen alive for the last time during a trip to Yellowstone National Park with Lori, JJ and Alex. In the following weeks Lori tells people that her daughter is studying at Brigham Young University’s Idaho campus.
September 23, 2019: The last time JJ is seen at his school in Rexburg. Lori emails the school the following day claiming she is moving the family to California for a new job.
October 2, 2019: Brandon Boudreaux, the ex-husband of Lori’s niece Melani Pawlowski, is targeted in a drive-by shooting in Arizona. Police identify the vehicle carrying the shooter as a Jeep registered to Charles Vallow, Lori’s late husband.
October 19, 2019: Chad’s wife Tammy, 49, dies at their Idaho home. An obituary states that she passed away peacefully in her sleep. Chad declines an autopsy and her death is listed as due to natural causes.
October 25, 2019: A friend of Tylee receives a vague ‘miss you’ text from her phone but says that it didn’t sound like the teen.
November 5, 2019: Lori and Chad tie the knot on a beach in Kauai. Receipts indicate that Lori purchased her own wedding ring from Amazon nearly three weeks prior to Tammy’s death.
November 26, 2019: Out-of-state relatives ask Idaho police to perform a welfare check on JJ. Lori and Chad claim he is in Arizona with relatives and ask their friend, Melanie Gibb, to lie and say she took the boy there for Thanksgiving. Police soon learn that no one has seen JJ or Tylee, since September.
November 27, 2019: Police execute a search warrant related to the children at Lori’s home and discover that she and Chad have fled Idaho.
December 11, 2019: Tammy’s body is exhumed from a Utah cemetery and her death is reclassified as suspicious.
December 12, 2019: Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, is found dead in a bathroom in his Arizona home. Months later an autopsy determines that he died of natural causes while he had the overdose drug Narcan in his system.
December 21, 2019: Rexburg police issue the first press release about JJ and Tylee, revealing they believe their disappearance could be linked to Tammy’s death and asking the public for information.
December 24, 2019: Lori and Chad issue a statement through an attorney saying they love their son and daughter and look forward to addressing ‘allegations once they have moved beyond speculation and rumor’.
December 30, 2019: Police accuse Lori and Chad of lying to investigators and say they believe the couple know where the kids are or what happened to them.
January 3, 2020: Police search Chad’s home in Salem and remove 43 items, including tech devices and journals. They also comb over sections of the snow-covered yard with rakes and metal detectors.
January 26, 2020: Lori and Chad are seen for the first time in months as police serve them with two search warrants in Kauai. Lori is also served with a court order to produce the children to authorities in Idaho in five days. The couple are approached by the media while officers serve the documents and refuse to say anything about the children.
January 30, 2020: Lori misses the court deadline to produce the children to Idaho authorities.
February 20, 2020: Lori is arrested in Kauai and charged with two felony counts for desertion and nonsupport of dependent children, and one misdemeanor count each for resisting and obstructing an officer, solicitation of a crime, and contempt of court.
March 5, 2020: Lori is extradited to Idaho, where she is held on $1million bond at Madison County Jail.
March 17, 2020: Lori professes her innocence in a statement through her attorney as two other members of her defense team quit and the judge removes himself from the case.
March 24, 2020: Court documents filed in the divorce of Lori’s niece Melani and her husband Brandon Boudreaux allege that Lori told people she believed her children were zombies before they disappeared.
April 9, 2020: Authorities reveal they are investigating Lori and Chad for murder, attempted murder and conspiracy in connection with Tammy’s death.
June 9, 2020: Police search Chad’s home in Salem for the second time and discover human remains in the backyard. Chad is taken into police custody and charged with destruction or concealment of evidence.
May 25, 2021: Lori and Chad are charged with first degree murder in the deaths of the children. Chad is also charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife Tammy.
May 27, 2021: Lori is deemed incompetent to stand trial on the murder charges in Idaho.
August 5, 2021: Prosecution announces it will seek the death penalty for Chad.
April 11, 2022: Lori is restored competency. Criminal proceedings against her in Idaho are ordered to continue.
April 14, 2022: Lori is taken to the Madison County Jail in Rexburg, Idaho, by Fremont County Sheriff officers
April 10, 2023: Lori Vallow goes on trial for the murders of JJ, 7, and Tylee, 17