ST. ANTHONY — Charging documents for Chad and Lori Daybell give insight into how the couple allegedly conspired and had three people killed.
Announcement of murder and other charges against the Daybells came Tuesday afternoon during a news conference with Special Prosecutor Rob Wood and Fremont County Prosecutor Lindsey Blake. The nine-page indictment sheds new light on the events surrounding the deaths of Tammy Daybell, Tylee Ryan and Joshua “JJ” Vallow.
The indictment alleges that starting on Oct. 26, 2018, Chad Daybell, Lori Daybell and Alex Cox, Lori’s deceased brother, used religious beliefs to justify the killings. The three expressed fringe religious beliefs about people becoming zombies and preparing for the end of the world.
While court documents do not go into the specifics of how Tylee died, it’s known she was last seen alive on Sept. 8, 2019, at Yellowstone National Park. Investigators believe Tylee was killed the next day before being burned and buried in the backyard of Chad’s Salem home. Internet search records show Chad looked up “ssw wind,” referring to a wind direction.
Phone records place Cox on Daybell’s property in the general area where investigators would eventually find Tylee’s body.
A few weeks later, on Sept. 23, 2019, JJ was last seen alive with Cox who “did take possession” of the 7-year-old boy. JJ’s body was also found by investigators when searching Chad’s property on June 9, 2020.
After the kids are believed to have died, Lori is alleged to have continued to collect on the children’s Social Security benefits, moving their deposit into her personal account, according to the indictment.
An investigation into the children’s disappearances did not begin until November 2019 when JJ’s grandparents, Kay and Larry Woodcock, reported their grandson was missing. Investigators and charging documents indicate how Lori allegedly lied about the kids’ wellbeing and locations before she and Chad fled to Hawaii.
The kids were not the only ones Chad, Lori and Alex allegedly conspired to kill. When Chad and Lori met, the two were still married – Chad to Tammy Daybell and Lori to Charles Vallow.
Police have said Cox shot and killed Vallow in an Arizona home on July 11, 2019, leaving Chad the only one married. Cox told investigators the shooting of Vallow was in self-defense, however, the case in Arizona remains an open investigation.
Text messages from July 30, 2019 between Chad and Lori talk about “death percentages” of Tammy and the kids, according to the indictment. Text messages between Chad and Lori also mentioned Tammy being in a limbo, possessed by a spirit named “Viola.”
Nearly seven-months before Cox shot and killed Charles Vallow, Arizona police body camera footage shows Vallow talking to authorities about Lori saying he had been taken over by a spirit named “Nick Schneider.”
On Sept. 8, the same day Tylee was last seen alive at Yellowstone, Chad signed an application to increase Tammy’s LifeMap insurance to the maximum allowed under the policy, according to the indictment. Previous court documents indicate that policy was around $430,000.
With the life insurance increased, Cox tried to shoot Tammy outside of the Salem home on Oct. 9, 2019. That evening, Tammy called 911, saying a masked man shot at her in her driveway with a paintball gun. Tammy went to Facebook afterward, saying she has no idea who the person was or why they would shoot at her.
Cox visited Sportsman’s Warehouse – an outdoors and hunting store in Idaho Falls — before the shooting, but court records do not indicate what he did there.
Before Oct. 9, 2019, investigators determined Cox went to a gun range to practice his shooting skills. According to court documents, Cox also searched the internet between Oct 8, 2019 and Oct. 12, 2019 about “Grendel drop,” and shooting through a “Dodge Dakota.” The Grendel drop search is likely in reference to the ballistics of a 6.5 Grendel round for a rifle.
Then Tammy died on Oct. 18, 2019. Chad is reported to have told investigators she died in her sleep; however, charges indicate otherwise. Court documents do not go into detail about how she died, but Cox was in the parking lot of a church 2.5 miles down the road from Chad’s home that day.
With Tammy, Charles, Tylee and JJ dead, Chad and Lori were married in Hawaii on Nov. 5, 2019. They returned to Idaho before going back to the island in December 2019 after police came looking for JJ and Tylee.
Lori was arrested in February 2020 in Hawaii and brought back to Idaho on charges related to the disappearance of her kids. The charges all changed after investigators found the kids bodies, also leading to the arrest of Chad. They were charged with felonies related to destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence, namely the bodies of Tylee and JJ.
Investigators spent months collecting evidence, allowing prosecutors to build a case. With COVID-19 slowing things down, a grand jury finally met over the past week in Fremont County. The grand jury decided to indict the couple on Monday.
In addition to the initial charges, Chad and Lori are charged with the following:
- Lori and Chad Daybell were indicted on the charge of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft by deception for the death of Tylee Ryan.
- Lori and Chad Daybell were indicted on the charge of first-degree murder for the death of Tylee Ryan.
- Lori and Chad Daybell were indicted on the charge of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft by deception for the death of JJ Vallow.
- Lori and Chad Daybell were indicted on the charge of first-degree murder for the death of JJ Vallow.
- Lori and Chad Daybell were indicted on the charge of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the death of Tammy Daybell.
- Chad Daybell was indicted on the charge of first-degree murder in the death of his wife Tammy Daybell.
- Lori Daybell was indicted on the charge of grand theft related to Social Security Survivor benefits over $1,000 allocated for the care of minors Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow that were appropriated after the children were missing and ultimately found deceased.
- Chad Daybell was indicted on the charge of insurance fraud related to a life insurance policy he had on Tammy Daybell for which he was the beneficiary and received funds after her death.
- Chad Daybell was indicted on the charge of insurance fraud related to another life insurance policy he had on Tammy Daybell for which he was the beneficiary and received funds after her death.
The penalty for the murder charges range from life in prison without the possibility of parole to the death penalty, Blake said. If prosecutors decide on the death penalty, they have to notify Lori and Chad within 60 days of their plea.
Although Cox is believed to be involved in the deaths of JJ, Tylee and Tammy, he died in December 2019 at his Arizona home of what a medical examiner called natural causes.
Chad will have his initial court appearance on the new charges Wednesday at 11 a.m. Lori will appear at 11:30. The hearings will be held via Zoom, and EastIdahoNews.com will carry the hearings live.