Why haven’t the remains of JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan been released to family members?
ST. ANTHONY — Larry Woodcock made a passionate plea outside the Fremont County Courthouse Thursday following a hearing for one of the people accused of killing his grandson.
“All I want to do is bury the kids. It’s been three years. JJ’s in a vault right here in town. He’s in a freezer. Come on, judge, let us have him so we can bury him,” Woodcock told EastIdahoNews.com. “Just give us the children. Let us do what is right.”
Woodcock’s 7-year-old grandson Joshua “JJ” Vallow and his sister, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan, were discovered buried on Chad Daybell’s Salem property in June 2020. Daybell is married to the children’s mother, Lori Vallow Daybell. Chad and Lori face multiple counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of the kids and Chad’s first wife, Tammy Daybell.
After JJ and Tylee’s remains were found, they were taken to the Ada County Coroner’s Office for an autopsy. Tylee’s body was dismembered and burned, according to court documents, while JJ’s body was wrapped in tight black plastic and secured with gray duct tape. Authorities have not released a cause of death for either child.
The bodies have since been brought back to eastern Idaho, but Woodcock is upset they have not been released to family members for burial or memorial services.
“I don’t care about Lori. I don’t care about Chad. Did what they do is right? No. It was wrong. It was horrible. I don’t even know how you comprehend doing something like that, but at this point, I just don’t care. Let us have the kids. Let us bury them. Let us do the right thing and that’s all I’m begging the court,” Woodcock said.
Court proceedings have been underway since JJ and Tylee were found and their bodies are considered evidence, according to attorney David Leroy. He has practiced law for five decades and served as Idaho attorney general, the Ada County prosecuting attorney and lieutenant governor of Idaho.
“Certainly these bodies are the most significant of evidence in this set of cases (and) the best practice is to retain all of the evidence until all of the appeals and all of the appeals of the appeals have been completed,” LeRoy tells EastIdahoNews.com.
WATCH OUR ENTIRE CONVERSATION WITH DAVID LEROY IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE
While prosecutors have completed autopsies on JJ and Tylee, defense attorneys have the right to have their own autopsies performed. Both sides can request DNA and other testing on the bodies, such as when prosecutors in July asked Judge Steven Boyce to allow them to collect comprehensive DNA from underneath JJ’s fingernails.
Having the bodies in custody for testing from the defense and prosecution helps maintain evidence and the integrity of the case, LeRoy says.
“We do not know, as the trial looms, what kind of testimony there will be about scientific testing, the respective cause of death of these two children (and) who might have done what … to cause these deaths,” LeRoy explains.
If prosecutors and defense attorneys agree, it’s possible the bodies could be released before the trials conclude. The Woodcocks have previously said they want to have public memorial services for the children in Idaho, Arizona and their home state of Louisiana.
The trial for Chad and Lori, who have pleaded not guilty to all charges, is scheduled to begin Jan. 9 in Ada County. It’s expected to last up to ten weeks and LeRoy says there has never been another case like this in Idaho history.
“This horrendous set of allegations, the interrelationship of multiple death allegations, the overlay of religion and extreme views that are not related to any conventional religious view – this is utterly unique,” he says.