Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell allegedly tried to justify the deaths of Vallow’s two children and Daybell’s first wife, Tammy, with their religious beliefs—but investigators believe the couple also had financial motives in the slayings, according to a new indictment in the case.
The indictment reveals several startling new details about the complex case that has occupied investigators for more than a year and has encompassed a string of mysterious deaths, doomsday predictions and troubling witness accounts.
While many aspects of the case remain a mystery, the latest indictment against the couple — in which prosecutors outline charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of Lori’s children, Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 16 — provides some answers about what investigators believe led to the killings.
Prosecutors have alleged that Chad, Lori and Lori’s now-deceased brother, Alex Cox, did “willingly and knowingly combine, conspire, confederate and agree” to carry out the children’s murders in September of 2019, several months before law enforcement authorities would realize the children were missing.
Along with the murder charges for the children, Chad is also facing a murder charge in the death of his first wife Tammy Daybell, 49, who was found dead in the couple’s home on October 19, 2019. Authorities announced they were re-examining the case later that year after noting the circumstances around the mother of five’s death were suspicious, but have released few details—until now—about what their investigation uncovered.
Some of the new findings in the indictment include:
A Possible Financial Motive
Less than a month before Lori’s 16-year-old daughter Tylee disappeared, authorities said Lori changed the location where Tylee’s social security survivor benefits (which she would have been entitled to following the death of her father, Joseph Ryan, in 2018) were being deposited. The switch occurred on August 16, 2019, according to the indictment. Lori redirected the benefits from Tylee’s account at JP Morgan Chase to her own personal account at the bank BBVA, prosecutors said.
Investigators believe Tylee was last seen alive on Sept. 8, 2018 while on a family outing to Yellowstone National Park, but according to the indictment, Lori “wrongfully” continued to collect five months of social security survivor benefits on behalf of her daughter and never notified the Social Security Administration that Tylee had died.
Authorities said Lori also continued to collect social security survivor and child-in-care payments for her son JJ, for four months after he disappeared until February of 2020, according to the indictment.
In addition, the same day that Tylee was last seen alive at the national park, authorities have alleged that Chad signed an application along with his wife, Tammy, to increase Tammy’s life insurance to the “maximum allowed under her policy.” Tammy, a school librarian, would be found dead the next month.
Chad And Lori Believed Tammy Was Possessed
Before Tammy was found dead in her home, authorities have alleged that Lori and Chad, a religious author who wrote about the end of days, had texted about Tammy being possessed by a spirit named “Viola.” They allegedly referred to the Idaho mother as being in a state of “limbo” and had discussed, months earlier in text communications, about the “death percentages” for both Tammy and Lori’s son JJ, according to the indictment.
Lori’s friend, Melanie Gibb, told investigators that Lori had also made similar claims about her own children before they died, according to an earlier affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com.
Gibb told police she had been on the phone with Lori in the spring of 2019 when she heard Lori call Tylee a “zombie.”
“Lori also told Gibb that Tylee had turned into a zombie when she was 12 or 13, which was approximately the same time Tylee had become ‘difficult’ to deal with,” the affidavit stated.
Gibb told police that Lori used the term “zombie” to refer to people whose mortal spirit had left their body and they had become, instead, possessed by another “dark spirit,” according to the affidavit.
Gibb said it had been the couple’s mission to rid the world of these zombies.
Gibb told police that Lori said JJ had turned into a zombie during a visit Gibb and her boyfriend, David Warwick, had made to Idaho from Sept. 19 to Sept. 23 in 2019. According to the affidavit, Lori had “pointed out behaviors such as sitting still and watching tv, claiming that JJ said he loved Satan, and an increased vocabulary” as evidence he had become a zombie. JJ disappeared during Gibb’s visit and was no longer at Lori’s home on the morning of Sept. 23.
According to Gibb, Lori told the couple that JJ had been “acting like a zombie” and crawling on top of the refrigerator the night before and that Cox had come to take him away to his own nearby apartment, according to the probable cause statement. Investigators said the 7-year-old was never seen alive again.
Alex Cox Allegedly Tried To Kill Tammy Days Before Her Death
Tammy died Oct. 19, 2019—but investigators now believe it wasn’t the first attempt on her life.
Just 10 days earlier, authorities said Cox “attempted to shoot” Tammy after spending months practicing at a gun range, according to the indictment.
Tammy Daybell recounted the scary incident herself in a post to a neighborhood Facebook group just after the encounter, East Idaho News reported in 2019.
“Something really weird just happened, and I want you to know so you can watch out,” she wrote. “I had gotten home and parked in our front driveway. As I was getting stuff out of the back seat, a guy wearing a ski mask was suddenly standing by the back of my car with a paintball gun. He shot at me several times, although I don’t think it was loaded. I yelled for Chad and he ran off around the back of my house.”
Tammy said the masked man never spoke, even though she had asked several times what he wanted.
“I was about to smack him with my freezer meals from Enrichment tonight when I decided to yell for Chad instead,” she concluded.
Tammy reported the incident to the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, who investigated but were never able to identify the man and believed he had been a prankster.
“Our deputy went out there and investigated the report but he was unable to find anything,” Fremont County Sheriff Len Humphries told the news outlet in 2019.
Ten days later, Tammy was dead. Chad told authorities she had been coughing when she went to bed the night before and had died peacefully in her sleep, according to East Idaho News.
Authorities now believe Chad either killed Tammy, assisted in her killing or commanded someone else to carry out the act, according to the indictment.
On the night of Oct. 18, 2019, authorities said Cox had been in a church parking lot just 2.5 miles away from the Daybell’s home.
Cox died himself in December of that year due to what authorities have concluded was natural causes, according to NBC News.
Lori and Chad are already behind bars after being arrested last year on other charges connected to the case.