REXBURG — Lori Vallow Daybell appeared in an Idaho court for the first time on Friday wearing pink handcuffs and red lipstick. She heard the charges made against her and her attorneys argued that her $5 million bail should be lowered.
Magistrate Judge Faren Eddins informed Daybell she is charged with two counts of felony child abandonment, misdemeanor resisting and obstructing an officer, solicitation of a crime and contempt of court. The charges are related to the disappearance of Daybell’s children, 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, who haven’t been seen since September.
Edwina Elcox, one of three west Idaho attorneys representing Daybell, argued for a bail reduction to $10,000.
“Lori is presumed innocent as she stands before the court today,” Elcox said. “This is not a loose guideline. It’s a foundational principle of the American criminal justice system.”
She told the judge and the packed courtroom that this was a court of law, not a court of public opinion, and that bail must match the charges Daybell is facing.
“Are we going to let our citizens’ rights be dictated by what appears in the media?” she asked. “A $5 million bond is unreasonable, it’s astronomically excessive, and it’s a functional equivalent of holding Lori without bond. This is a violation of Lori’s constitutional rights.”
Elcox reminded the court that in a recent murder case, bail was set at $1 million, and Daybell has never been accused of a violent crime.
“It is clear that the government just needed to find a charge that would fit in this case because of all the media attention surrounding this matter,” she said. “The last thing that should happen is to allow this case to be tried in the media and to allow public opinion and rampant speculation to dictate how this case proceeds in the criminal justice system.”
Daybell’s husband, Chad Daybell, sat behind Lori during the proceedings. Elcox mentioned that Lori would be living with Chad in Madison County and that is not a flight risk.
Madison County Prosecutor Rob Wood argued for the bond to remain at $5 million.
He asserted that Daybell was a flight risk. He drew the court’s attention to the fact she quickly left Arizona after the suspicious death of her estranged husband, Charles Vallow, and immediately left Idaho after police attempted to perform a welfare check about the location of JJ and Tylee.
“The defendant also tried to mislead law enforcement about the whereabouts of her children, and in furtherance of that, she tried to convince a family friend to say the children were with them, even though they weren’t,” Wood said.
Wood said Daybell had a history of defying court orders. The most recent was in January, when Madison County issued a court order for Daybell to return the children to Rexburg. She did not follow that court order, which ultimately led to a contempt of court charge.
Wood also revealed that Daybell continued to collect Social Security benefits for both children after she left the state without them.
“The most aggravating factor about this case … and the reason there is so much media attention, is because the children are still missing,” Wood said. “The defendant has not only misled law enforcement in their efforts to find the children, but she has completely and utterly refused to aid police in finding the children, even before charges were filed.”
Following statements by the prosecution and defense, Eddins reduced bail to $1 million. He stipulated that if Vallow does post bond, she must wear an ankle monitor and stay within Bonneville, Jefferson, Madison and Fremont counties.
WATCH THE ENTIRE HEARING IN THE PLAYER ABOVE
Media outlets from New York City, Los Angeles, Arizona, Utah, Idaho and other states attended the hearing. The Madison County Sheriff’s Office implemented strict security procedures due to the overwhelming interest in this case. Dozens of people, some coming from as far away as Arizona, watched a live broadcast of the hearing inside and outside the courthouse. An impromptu news conference was held afterward with Kay and Larry Woodcock, the grandparents of JJ, and Colby Ryan, Daybell’s son.
“I don’t care what the judicial system does or doesn’t do to Lori,” Larry Woodcock said. “But I do care what (has) happened to Tylee and to JJ…It’s not whether I like Lori or whether I like Chad. This is about finding two children. I want everybody to keep that in mind in everything we do. Please – it’s about two children.”
Ryan, who traveled from Arizona to attend the hearing, says he hopes to speak with his mother and ask her where his brother and sister are.
“I want to get in front of her. Obviously she’s my mom and I’m very concerned about my siblings,” Ryan said. “My first question is going to be, ‘Where are Tylee and JJ?”
Kay Woodcock mentioned Hawaiian leis both she and Larry were wearing. A Hawaiian man visiting eastern Idaho gave them to the couple.
“His wife made them for us and there is one for JJ and one for Tylee,” Kay Woodcock said. “These are so we can give them to (the kids) once we get it back. This is for our support from Hawaii.”
Chad Daybell quickly left the courthouse out of a back door and refused to answer questions from reporters and others who had gathered around.
A preliminary hearing for Daybell has been scheduled for March 18 and 19 at the Madison County Courthouse. Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood will need to prove there is enough evidence on the felony charges for the case to proceed from Magistrate Court to District Court.
WATCH THE NEWS CONFERENCE HERE