Judge orders Lori Vallow Daybell must remain in courtroom during testimony about her children
Investigators also describe guns, silencers and Tyvek suits discovered in Vallow Daybell’s home
A judge has ordered Lori Vallow Daybell must remain in the courtroom even as testimony and photos of the discovery of her children’s bodies is presented to the jury.
The Idaho mother is charged with conspiracy, murder and grand theft in the deaths of her two children, 7-year-old JJ Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan. She also faces charges in the death of her new husband’s first wife, Tammy Daybell, who prosecutors revealed was killed by asphyxiation.
The request came following a morning of testimony that included descriptions of investigators’ efforts to extricate the charred remains of the children without damaging them. The bodies were found buried in the “pet cemetery” at the home of Chad Daybell, Lori Vallow Daybell’s new husband.
Chad Daybell, who is also charged in the three deaths, has pleaded not guilty and will face a separate trial.
Before the proceedings got underway Tuesday morning, Vallow Daybell appeared in court looking relaxed, wearing a pink blouse and black pants, her ankles shackled to the floor. She talked and joked with her attorneys, at one point throwing her head back in laughter.
But following a break for lunch, she walked into the courtroom visibly upset. She looked teary, with rosy cheeks and a scowl. Attorneys asked that she be excused while testimony continued for the rest of the day.
“My client, her fragile state of mind, the mental health concerns, the myriad reports that have been filed about her mental health do justify such a request,” her attorney, R. James Archibald, asked the judge.
Prosecutors countered that Idaho law favors a defendant being present for the duration of a trial, and said a quick search revealed no precedent for her being excused.
Judge Steven W. Boyce denied the request, saying that while the law does allow for absences, he was requiring Vallow Daybell to remain in the courtroom to preserve due process in the case.
What ensued was a graphic hour of descriptions from Rexburg police detective Ray Hermosillo, who described what authorities were experiencing as they excavated the bodies. Then, prosecutors showed image after image from the Ada County Coroner’s office, taken in June 2020, that showed the 7-year-old’s decomposing body.
Still, Hermosillo said he knew right away that it was JJ.
“It was very easy to identify that little boy on the table as the one we were looking for over the last few months,” he said, becoming emotional.
Vallow Daybell looked away from the courtroom screen, and did not look down at the images handed to her attorneys. Several family members in attendance wept.
Given the nature of the evidence, Boyce called for another break. And for about 15 minutes, Vallow Daybell didn’t move — she sat slumped in her chair with her back to the gallery, arms crossed.
When the break was over, her attorney John Thomas cross-examined Hermosillo, asking him a number of questions, including how he went about obtaining a warrant to search Vallow Daybell’s home, and about the search of Daybell’s property where they eventually discovered the bodies of Tylee and JJ.
What police found at Lori Vallow Daybell’s home
When police served a search warrant on Lori Vallow Daybell’s Rexburg townhome on Nov. 27, 2019, they found two silencers, a mask, several guns, including two rifles, and camouflage suits.
They also found two Tyvek suits — white, full body, personal protective equipment that is often used for cleaning up hazardous materials, Hermosillo testified Tuesday morning.
The day before police went into Vallow Daybell’s home with a search warrant, Hermosillo had attempted to conduct a welfare check after JJ’s grandparents in Louisiana contacted police in Gilbert, Arizona, concerned about his whereabouts. Gilbert police then reached out to Rexburg officers, and on Nov. 26, 2019, Hermosillo confronted Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell’s brother, Alex Cox, outside an apartment near downtown Rexburg.
“Alex had a blank look on his face,” Hermosillo said, describing the moment he asked where JJ was. “A frightened look. (He) looked over at Chad Daybell ... Chad then looked at Alex, and they kind of just looked at each other, they didn’t answer my question ... it raised some red flags, just the way they acted with that question.”
Hermosillo, with another Rexburg officer, knocked on Lori Vallow Daybell’s door. She didn’t respond. He then saw Chad Daybell, driving away, and flagged him down to ask for Vallow Daybell’s phone number. Daybell said he didn’t have her number.
“He stated that he hardly knew her, and that he had only met her a couple of times,” Hermosillo said, responding to prosecutor Rob Wood’s questions. The longtime Rexburg police officer said that was suspicious.
“We knew that Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell had been married two weeks prior,” he said.
Though Vallow Daybell eventually met with two other detectives that afternoon, the following day, on Nov. 27, police obtained a warrant. When she didn’t answer, police broke down the door to Vallow Daybell’s apartment.
That’s where officers found the Tyvek suits, a mask, silencers and guns. The barrel of one of the rifles, Hermosillo said, was “threaded to fit a silencer.”
On Monday, Brandon Boudreaux, who was married to Melanie Boudreaux, Vallow Daybell’s niece and a follower of her fringe beliefs, testified about the day someone shot at him outside his apartment with a rifle, with a silencer attached, in October 2019. Tammy Daybell was also shot at by a masked man in her driveway that same month, police have said.
During the search, officers also located Alex Cox’s passport, rope and duct tape found inside a bag, a cellphone, books written by Chad Daybell, and various documents, according to Hermosillo.
Cox died from what authorities say were natural causes in December 2019, the day after Tammy Daybell’s body was exhumed as part of the investigation.