Author who worked with Chad Daybell says he’s been deceived and needs to ‘do the right thing’
SALEM — As autopsy results for Tammy Daybell are still being finalized, a woman who knew and worked with Tammy and Chad Daybell years ago is revealing new information about their past.
Suzanne Freeman was one of the first authors to have her work published by Spring Creek Book Company, which the Daybells launched in 2004. The first book, “Led by the Hand of Christ,” focused on Freeman’s near-death experience, and over the next eight years, she partnered with Chad on two more projects.
“He was interesting. He was very humble. When we were writing the first book, he called me up one day and said, ‘Do you think maybe, possibly it would be OK . … Do you think maybe we could put a subtitle on the book?” Freeman recalls, explaining Chad’s hesitancy to make the request. “I thought that was interesting. Why didn’t he just come out with it? I didn’t care what he did as long as he didn’t change my story.”
Chad wrote about meeting Freeman on his website in August 2015. After discussing “that a humble housewife from a small Utah town had actually died, met the Savior, and returned,” he wanted assurance that Freeman’s experience was authentic.
“Before I’d even consider publishing her story, I wanted to make sure her account stayed consistent within itself,” he wrote. “I began asking her many questions to see if she would slip up or change her story, but throughout the ‘interrogation,’ she looked me in the eyes and was straightforward with her answers. After about 30 minutes, I felt satisfied and said, ‘I believe you. I feel we should publish your experience.'”
The book was released, and Freeman began speaking about her story at different events. Years later, she learned Chad claimed to have two near-death experiences, and she found it odd that he had never said anything to her about them.
“He never mentioned he had a near-death experience. We had a lot of conversations, and I would think that might come up,” Freeman says. “Having an NDE (near-death experience) myself, people come to me and tell me their stories, but he never once told me a story. He only said he had some sacred experiences of his own, and I respected that. Usually, in my experience, if you had a near-death experience, people want to share it because they can’t share it just to anybody, and I would totally be understanding.”
Leaving Spring Creek Book Company
Over the years, Freeman remembers Chad’s religious views aligning with the mainstream teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But in 2014, after releasing her third book, “The Spirit of Liberty,” Chad suggested they combine all three of her publications and remove LDS references to make the story more mainstream. He also began working on projects that concerned Freeman.
“He started publishing non-Mormon doctrine stories – people’s different experiences and stuff, and I just told him there’s something that’s not quite right,” Freeman says. “Plus, we were working on a book of mine together to take out of the LDS stuff, and I was kind of surprised by that because he was an LDS author.”
Chad came to Freeman and said he would be closing his business because the “call-out” was coming. The idea, which is not Latter-day Saint doctrine, is that the president of the church will one day call on members who are prepared to gather.
“The prophet one day, before any tribulations … we’ll be called out to go to the (LDS Church-owned) girls’ camps,” Freeman says. “Only those that have their food storage and a temple recommend will go. He felt that was going to happen, I think it was July, so he was going to stop publishing books.”
Freeman says Chad believed the righteous would live together until earthquakes and calamities happened ahead of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. She had heard this idea in online chatrooms and forums, but it didn’t make sense to her.
“It seems to me that if you want to be safe, you wouldn’t go where the government knows where the church has camps,” Freeman says. “I thought, ‘I’m not going where the government knows that.’ I just never felt that was for me.”
Chad and Freeman went their separate ways, but she says he promised to give her book rights back. When he didn’t, she sought legal advice to discuss her options.
“I went to an attorney, and he read through the contract. He said, ‘I have never seen a publisher’s contract this one-sided. This has nothing good for you in it,'” Freeman says. “I just thought that was not honest. I thought, ‘Give me my rights back. That’s what I want.’ I don’t want my name attached to what he’s publishing. I’m not believing in that, and I want to be left alone.”
Despite their falling out, Freeman says she still respected Chad and had a great admiration for Tammy. She describes their relationship as a “true love story” and never sensed any problems between the couple.
“Tammy, she was a sweetheart. I think she was the heart of the business. She just really was good at it and really kind and really genuine,” Freeman says. “He would tell me she was his soulmate, and he knew her in the pre-existence, and when he met her, they knew each other. I was impressed by that. I thought, ‘Wow. They have a really sweet relationship, and that’s really tender.’ I was impressed by him, how humble he was, and how he felt about his wife. That’s not very common. I really was honored to be Chad’s friend early on because I love to see good men. There’s good men out there, and I like associating with good people.”
New developments and a message for Chad
Years went by, and Freeman lost touch with the Daybells. Then, in October 2019, she was shocked to see a Facebook post written by Chad announcing Tammy had died suddenly.
“I am saddened to share that my beautiful, talented wife Tammy passed away early this morning in her sleep,” the post said. “It is a shock to all of us. She was so wonderful in every way! We are still working out the details, but we plan to hold a viewing Monday evening in Springville, Utah, then hold the funeral and burial there on Tuesday. We will hold a memorial service in Rexburg on Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the Henry’s Fork Stake Center. We are overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support. Thank you so much!”
Freeman says the post felt “cold” and she assumed Tammy had been battling a long-term illness. A few weeks later, Freeman heard Chad had gone to Hawaii, met a widow and gotten married. She thought it was an untrue rumor.
“I thought, ‘Chad really loved his wife. Why would he marry that soon? This doesn’t make any sense. She’s not even cold in the grave – why would he get remarry that fast?'” Freeman says. “Knowing the love story I thought I knew, that didn’t seem like the Chad I knew. I thought it was plain old gossip.”
When Freeman confirmed the rumor was true and Chad had indeed married Lori Vallow, she was stunned.
“Why would a man want to marry a woman that didn’t know where her children were? There’s only one reason, but we’re not going to go there,” Freeman says. “I just couldn’t believe it.”
As Freeman has learned more about the investigation into Lori Daybell’s missing children, Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan, she’s become increasingly worried. She’s also disturbed by hearing Chad and Lori’s religious teachings – including the belief that the kids may have become “zombies.”
“I am so ashamed. I think that’s the word – I’m ashamed. Embarrassed. Disgusted,” she says. “I can’t wrap my head around the fact that he could be the person that they’re claiming him to be, but I believe it. There’s no lying he’s saying people are zombies, but I think he turned into a zombie. If people turn into zombies, Chad turned into a zombie personally.”
Freeman knows some may be uncomfortable with what she is saying and she asks those with “hateful messages” to keep them to themselves. She also believes Chad’s teachings about multiple “probations” are dangerous and conflict with the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“My belief is this. Christ died for us. He died for our sins. Multiple mortalities or probations denies what Christ did for us. Why would a loving God and Jesus Christ want us to come back and live our lives over and over? My life has been hard, and I wouldn’t want to do this again. I love Jesus with all my heart, and I just feel it’s denying the Savior,” Freeman says.
Chad’s attorney, Mark Means, had no comment on Freeman’s statements and she says she holds no ill will toward her former publisher. She now shares her books for free on her website and has a message for Chad.
“Chad, we get deceived. We all get deceived, but please do the right thing. Just know there are people who love you,” Freeman says. “Do the thing you know it right. Jesus will still love you. Just know that.”