REXBURG — A local woman who spent time with Lori Vallow Daybell in the Madison County Jail is sharing details about the experience for the first time.
The woman has asked EastIdahoNews.com not to use her real name for safety reasons. In this story, we will refer to her as Missy Cook. Madison County Jail officials confirm Cook was incarcerated on a parole violation at the time Daybell was booked. Cook was later sent to another correctional facility until she was recently released from custody.
Cook visited with EastIdahoNews.com for two hours last week and provided notes she kept while behind bars in Madison County. The notes detail conversations Cook allegedly had with Daybell.
During the time they were both incarcerated, Daybell spoke with her new husband, Chad Daybell, and her son, Colby Ryan. Cook overheard parts of those conversations from her adjacent cell.
Cook also showed us a text message conversation she had with Daybell days ago through a phone app that allows people to communicate with inmates.
Daybell remains in the Madison County Jail on $1 million bail on two felony charges of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence. She is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday.
Meeting Lori Vallow Daybell
While Cook was incarcerated in Madison County this spring, she was placed in disciplinary lockdown between March 4 to 8 for breaking jail rules. Deputies moved her into a segregated pod, which contained two cells.
“Everybody in the jail was talking about how Lori was coming back from Hawaii and we wondered if we’d be able to see her,” Cook says. “So I’m sitting in the pod and in walks two or three guards with her. They were very nice and she was nice. She walked in with her stripes on but she also had a bulletproof vest on. I had never seen another inmate like that.”
Daybell arrived in Rexburg Thursday, March 5 from Hawaii, where she had been arrested on two counts of desertion and nonsupport of a dependant child. Her children, Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan, had been missing since September 2019 and Daybell refused to cooperate with law enforcement.
Jail officials confirm to EastIdahoNews.com that Cook and Daybell were in a pod together for four days. They had their own private cells but were able to walk out into the pod and watch TV, read books, make phone calls or talk with each other.
“I made it a point not to ask about her kids. I wanted to gain her trust and see if she would tell me anything,” Cook recalls. “I’d been judged (unfairly) for one of my crimes and turned inside out for something it wasn’t. I couldn’t imagine feeling what she was feeling when she got there.”
Daybell was upbeat and friendly, according to Cook. She never showed any sign of heartbreak, never cried, did not appear to be disappointed and opened up about how glad she was to no longer be in the Kauai Community Correctional Center.
“She said the jail in Hawaii was so bad. There were roaches on the floor and it was awful. She kept saying how nice Madison was compared to that and how amazing the food was here,” Cook says.
Going to court
The day after Daybell was booked, she was scheduled for her initial court appearance in Madison County. Media outlets from across the country were huddled outside the courthouse and hundreds of people showed up hoping to catch a glimpse of the accused criminal.
“She was totally aware of all of it. She said, ‘We have the death of Kobe Bryant and COVID but no – there’s me. I’m the lead story. I’m more important than all that stuff,'” Cook tells EastIdahoNews.com. “She knew she was the main story and she liked it.”
Daybell was proud to show off her blue toenail polish but complained about her dry skin and was worried about how she would look during the hearing. Cook gave her some lotion, deodorant and makeup she had purchased from the commissary. Many inmates also use Jolly Rancher candies and colored pencils for lipstick or eye shadow.
“So she comes to the door and has on this bright pink lipstick. She said, ‘How does it look?’ I hesitantly paused and said, ‘Oh….you look good,'” Cook recalls. “I gave her some tips and said she could use a regular lead pencil to draw in her eyebrows and helped her get ready for court.”
Cook says Daybell “knew how big of a deal” the hearing was and looked forward to it. When she returned to her jail cell hours later, she wanted Cook to watch the news with her.
“As the news came on, she said, ‘Here it comes! Here’s my story. Turn it up. Let’s see what they say about me now,’” Cook recalls.
Bail and phone calls
Magistrate Judge Faren Eddins set Daybell’s bail at $1 million. She was determined to get out of jail and met with her attorneys for hours daily to see if she could come up with the money.
“Every day she’s going out with her lawyers and I’d say, ‘Are you bonding out?’ She would say, ‘I hope so,'” Cook says. “I remember before one of those meetings, she ran her fingers from her head down her body and said, ‘We’ll see if all of this is worth $1 million.'”
When Daybell wasn’t with her attorneys, she was likely talking on the phone or having video chats with Chad or Colby. Daybell would sometimes wear earbuds so Cook could not hear what was being said to Daybell, but she listened to Daybell’s words and took notes.
“She talked on the phone with her son literally almost two days straight. After the big entrance at her arraignment, she got on the phone with her son and said, ‘I didn’t see you (in the courtroom). There were just so many people,'” Cook says. “He kept saying, ‘Mom, where are JJ and Tylee? Why won’t you tell us? What’s going on?'”
Cook never heard Daybell discuss where her missing kids could be; rather, she would talk about memories from the past or ask Colby to show her his baby. When Colby became frustrated that his mom was not cooperating, Cook says she would tell him to read the scriptures.
“She told Colby to read Job (a book in the Old Testament) and he would understand. She said she was being tested like Job,” Cook says. “She would say, ‘Colby, just listen to me. Everyone wants to know but it’s none of their business. God doesn’t judge me and they shouldn’t judge me. The prophet says to stay off social media so don’t go on there.'”
Cook describes Daybell’s calls with Chad as “nauseating.” Daybell wanted affection and reassurance from her husband that he loved her and she always made sure she looked good if they communicated via video.
Life in jail
The day begins at the Madison County Jail with a standing headcount around 7 a.m. Breakfast is served and inmates must then complete chores.
“You’re given a bucket with cleaning supplies and you have to clean. Everything is metal so your spray things down, scrub the shower, scrub the floor – it’s awful,” Cook says.
Lunch arrives around 11:30 a.m. and inmates are given an hour of outdoor activity. Dinner is served at 5 and everyone must be in their cells by 11 p.m.
Daybell never spoke to Cook about religion but spent her free time reading scriptures and praying.
“I told her one thing that’s going to keep her sane in here is if she reads her scriptures every night,” Cook says. “I said the only comfort she’s going to get is to pray.”
In all the time they spent together, Daybell never discussed JJ or Tylee. Cook believed they were safe and never imagined their remains would be found buried on Chad Daybell’s property on June 9.
“I thought the kids were alive. I really did. I thought they had them in a polygamy compound and they were there working while she and Chad went to Hawaii to live their lives,” Cook says.
After four days, deputies came to the pod and told Cook she was being moved so Daybell could be by herself. They hugged each other and Daybell said she was sad to see her go. A few weeks later, Cook was transferred to another facility.
When she was released in August, Cook sent Daybell a text message through GettingOut, an app used to communicate with inmates. Daybell responded, “How are you doing? I’ve been praying for you. I’d love to visit with you. I’ll schedule you in later today. Hopefully that will work.”
Cook has not heard back from Daybell since that day but hopes to communicate with her again. She says all the inmates in the jail are following the case closely.
“I think she will turn against Chad. If she’s as vindictive as she is, those kids were buried on his land and at his house. I would turn on him to save my own ass,” Cook says.
Cook says it isn’t her place to say what she believes should happen to Daybell. But she remembers one thing her old pod mate repeatedly said throughout their time together.
“Everything has a purpose. God has a plan for everyone. His plan will be accomplished,” Cook remembers Daybell saying.