Lori Vallow turns on ‘nutty’ Chad Daybell in final bid to avoid murder conviction

Lori Vallow turns on ‘nutty’ Chad Daybell in final bid to avoid murder conviction

Lori Vallow turned on her lover, fellow cult member and alleged accomplice Chad Daybell in a dramatic closing statement where she made a final bid to avoid life in prison for the murders of her two children and Mr Daybell’s first wife.

In Ada County Court in Boise, Idaho, on Thursday, Ms Vallow’s attorney Jim Archibald sought to paint her as a hardworking “good mom” whose life suddenly changed when she met Mr Daybell.

“One year after meeting Chad, four people are dead,” said Mr Archibald.

“Who is Lori Vallow? What happened? Where did it happen? When did it happen? Why did it happen?” he asked.

“That’s what you’ve been asked to figure out.”

Mr Archibald walked jurors through Ms Vallow’s backstory, of how she grew up in California and got married straight out of high school.

Ms Vallow married three times in total before marrying fourth husband Charles Vallow. The couple adopted JJ Vallow, 7, and they lived together with Ms Vallow’s daughter Tylee Ryan, 16.

Mr Archibald said that the Vallows were a “good fit” for JJ, who had autism, and they “loved and cared for him”.

“Then the story about Lori Vallow changes dramatically in October 2018,” he said.

That month, Ms Vallow met Mr Daybell in person for the first time at a religious conference while they were both married. Prosecutors say their love affair, cult beliefs and murderous plans all grew from there.

First, Charles was shot dead by her brother Alex Cox in Arizona in July 2019 and Ms Vallow then moved with JJ and Tylee to Rexburg, Idaho, where Mr Daybell lived.

JJ and Tylee were last seen alive in September 2019 and for months Ms Vallow refused to reveal their whereabouts.

Tylee Ryan and Joshua “JJ” Vallow (Family handout)
Tylee Ryan and Joshua “JJ” Vallow (Family handout)

One month later, Tammy died suddenly aged 49 and Ms Vallow and Mr Daybell flew to Hawaii and married on a beach.

In June 2020, JJ and Tylee’s remains were discovered buried in Mr Daybell’s backyard.

JJ died by asphyxiation with multiple layers of plastic bags wrapped around the little boy’s head and duct tape over his mouth.

Tylee’s cause of death was impossible to determine because her remains were so badly burned and mutilated, with body parts and bones found scattered in the ground on the Daybell property.

Now, Ms Vallow is facing life in prison on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy and grand theft over the deaths of JJ and Tylee as well as conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the death of Tammy.

She is facing charges over Charles’ murder separately in Arizona.

In closing arguments on Thursday, Ms Vallow’s defence attorney argued that everything changed when Ms Vallow met Mr Daybell.

From then on, he claims that Ms Vallow was “under the control” of the doomsday author, under the spell of the “craziness” of his cult beliefs.

“Why can’t people escape religious leaders? Why can’t Lori escape and get back to her good mom life?” he asked.

“Lori is not a leader in Chad’s new church – the Church of the Fireborn. Lori so wants to testify of Jesus. She wants to tell the world how much she loves Jesus. She wants to tell you she personally met him on more than one occasion.”

Mr Archibald asked the jury to question whether Ms Vallow is “a leader” or “a follower”.

“But is Lori a leader or a follower of Chad? She so wants to be a leader but she’s not leading anyone,” he said.

“She’s following Chad. She thinks Chad is following Jesus but he’s not. He’s unfortunately being led by the storm - not the first guy to be led by the storm.”

Mr Archibald said that while people may question “how can someone have that much control over you”, reason and common sense “go out the windows sometimes when religious principles are involved”.

He pointed to testimony from witnesses who described Ms Vallow as a good mother prior to meeting Mr Daybell.

Lori Vallow outside court during a hearing last year (AP)
Lori Vallow outside court during a hearing last year (AP)

The defence attorney went on to blame the murders of Tylee and JJ squarely on Mr Daybell and Ms Vallow’s brother Alex Cox.

He argued that – while it is undeniable that JJ and Tylee were murdered – there was no evidence placing the 49-year-old mother-of-three at their murders or on Mr Daybell’s property when they were buried there. There is also no mention of murders in the 15,000 texts of evidence, he said.

“Look for the lack of evidence of who’s doing what,” he said.

By contrast, he pointed to cellphone data placing Cox in Mr Daybell’s yard on the day that JJ was buried there and Mr Daybell’s actions – looking over his shoulder and attempting to flee the scene – when investigators began digging up the yard months later.

“Chad knew what was in his backyard,” said the defence attorney.

Mr Archibald also dismissed the significance of Ms Vallow’s hair being found on duct tape used to wrap a plastic bag around JJ’s head.

Rather than being a “smoking gun”, he claimed that this would be expected when JJ’s pyjamas and clothes were also in the bag.

“I would hope all of you who are mothers, I hope your hair is somewhere on your kid’s pyjamas, socks or blanket,” he said.

He also argued that there was no evidence to show that Ms Vallow was involved in planning any of the murders – pointing instead to steps such as hiring a babysitter, listing JJ and Tylee on her rental application for her homne in Idaho and a lack of life insurance purchase for the children.

“Lori didn’t have a plan. The state wants you to think that this was Lori’s plan to kill her kids,” he said.

The defence attorney also questioned whether Mr Daybell’s wife Tammy was even murdered or whether she did in fact die of natural causes as initially thought.

In an attempt to pick holes in the prosecution’s argument that she was driven by “money, sex and power” to kill her children and Mr Daybell’s first wife, Mr Archibald made numerous scathing digs at Mr Daybell calling him “nutty” and scoffing at Mr Daybell’s attractiveness, the lack of money he could offer Ms Vallow in their new life and the couple’s doomsday beliefs that lie at the heart of the case.

In terms of the financial motive, he compared Charles’ salary of $400,000 to $500,000 a year to Mr Daybell’s $30,000 as the doomsday author “can’t sell enough stupid books about the end of the world”.

Chad Daybell is awaiting trial at a later date (Post Register)
Chad Daybell is awaiting trial at a later date (Post Register)

In terms of power, he pointed out that between them Ms Vallow and Mr Daybell managed to only recruit around six of the 144,000 they believed they were gathering for the second coming.

“At the rate of six people a year, that will take Chad 24,000 years to get this army assembled. The math is ridiculous,” he said.

Mr Archibald went on to compare Mr Daybell’s appearance to Charles’ appearance, saying “it wasn’t about sex” but was about Ms Vallow buying into his religious claims.

“She’s reading his books during a hard time in her life and this guy is telling her she’s a goddess... ‘and by the way, we’ve already been married in previous life so it’s not really cheating. And we were best friends with Jesus and Jesus approves so everything is okay,’” he said.

“That’s quite the pickup line by Chad to Lori and it worked. Pretty scary that the pickup line from Chad to Lori worked.”

If convicted, Ms Vallow faces life in prison.

Mr Daybell is also charged over the murders but is due to stand trial separately at a later date.

Cox, meanwhile, died before he could face charges.

On 11 December 2019, Cox died suddenly at the age of 51. His death was also ruled natural causes, with indications of a blood clot wedged in the arteries of his lungs. However the overdose drug Narcan was also found in his system.

Ms Vallow is also facing charges in Arizona of conspiring with Cox to murder her fourth husband Charles Vallow.