Neighbor recalls ‘guarded’ encounter with Daybells; Kauai prosecutor says missing kids have not been in Hawaii
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KAUAI, Hawaii — When Steve Latham meets most of his new neighbors, he finds they’re thrilled to be moving into the beautiful Villas on the Prince. The gated community of townhouse condos is on the Prince Golf Course in Princeville, Kauai, and is surrounded by palm trees, walking trails, beautiful fountains and a large swimming pool.
Latham has lived here for 10 years and is a real estate agent with Oceanfront Sotheby’s International Realty. He meets a lot of people, and when Chad and Lori Daybell moved two houses down from him early last month, he had an interesting encounter.
“About the first week of December, there were some boxes left on their porch, and I believe they were from Idaho,” Latham recalls. “I called the Realtor that had the listing, and he told me to put them inside. A few days after that, I saw them pull up and I went over and introduced myself. Their names were Chad and Lori.”
The couple was polite but seemed “guarded,” according to Latham. They didn’t open up or share anything about their personal lives but thanked their new neighbor for bringing in their packages.
The unit was for sale and had been vacant for some time. The Daybells did not buy the home, Latham said, but signed a contract as long-term tenants. Many homes in the community are used for vacation rentals, but Chad and Lori had more permanent plans. Latham says they bought furniture and had it moved in.
But then they vanished.
“I don’t think I ever saw them at the pool or anything like that. (The house) seemed vacant most of the time. I didn’t see lights on or anything like that,” he says. “I hardly ever saw them at all, and I never saw them with anybody else, so I don’t know if they were living there or not.”
Latham had no idea Lori’s children, Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 17, have been missing since the end of September. He did not know Lori and Chad were newlyweds and that Lori’s ex-husband, Charles Vallow, was shot and killed in Arizona by Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, last summer. Cox died of an undisclosed cause around the same time Chad and Lori moved to Hawaii.
Latham was also unaware Chad’s former wife, Tammy Daybell, died in October, and that her death has been deemed suspicious.
The real estate agent doesn’t remember the last time he saw Lori, but he had a brief conversation with Chad on Friday, Jan. 24. The Idaho father told Latham he was leaving because the condo was scheduled to be shown to a potential buyer.
Two days later, the couple was stopped 16 miles south of the Princeville home at the Kauai Beach Resort. Kauai Police issued a search warrant on their rental SUV and on the home two doors down from Latham’s home. Federal law enforcement and officers from eastern Idaho were also on hand.
“Our role here on Kauai has been mostly to support and provide logistical help,” Kauai County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar says. “They’re not currently suspected of committing any crimes here in Hawaii, so our goal has been mainly to assist the mainland authorities and the state and federal authorities.”
Chad and Lori have also not been charged with any crime in Idaho or Arizona, although the Rexburg Police Department has named them “persons of interest” in the disappearance of the children.
Lori Vallow Daybell lived in Hawaii with Charles Vallow years ago, and they ran a juice bar. She has visited frequently, but Kollar says his office was unaware of who she was until they were contacted by Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood a few weeks ago.
“This was not a person who was ever on our radar screen before this situation ever came up,” Kollar says. “Anything we can do here to hopefully find out where these kids are or what happened to them, we’d be happy to do.”
Kollar says they have no indication that JJ and Tylee have been in Hawaii recently. They were not with Lori and Chad when officers executed the search warrants Sunday.
The day before, Lori Daybell was served a child protection order demanding she bring the children to Rexburg by Thursday, Jan. 30. Although the existence of the order has been made public, most of it is still sealed. That means that any counteractions made by the Daybells’ attorney against the order aren’t part of the public record. It’s also likely only limited information will be available about the outcome of the order after the five-day deadline is up.
But there are several possible outcomes.
“If they fail to produce the children in the court in Idaho on Thursday or before Thursday, the judge there could issue a warrant for their arrest for either (Lori) or both of the parents,” Kollar says. “That would basically go into a nationwide database requesting extradition if that’s what they wanted.”
Kollar says if the Daybells are arrested, charged and needed to be extradited to Idaho, the process could happen quickly if Chad and Lori cooperate.
“The only thing they could contest here in Hawaii would be if they were or were not the people named in the warrant. They could also contest the legality of the arrest. That typically does not happen, but this is a unique case,” Kollar says. “They could also demand a governor’s warrant from Idaho.”
Kollar says in his 11 years as a prosecutor, he’s never seen another case like this.
And Latham has never had neighbors like the Daybells. He was unaware of the case until he opened the Washington Post on Monday morning and saw their photos. Now he needs some time to process everything he’s learned.
“I hope everything works out, and I hope what I read is not true,” he says.