Melanie Gibb took the stand Thursday to describe her former best friend Lori Vallow Daybell’s descent into radical beliefs that she says led the mother charged with murder to claim her children were zombies and that Chad Daybell’s wife would die.

Thursday’s testimony came during the second week of what’s expected to be an eight-week trial of Vallow Daybell, who has been charged with conspiracy, murder and grand theft in the deaths of her two children, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan, and Chad Daybell’s wife, Tammy Daybell.

Gibb, who became close with Vallow Daybell starting in 2018, detailed a tense relationship between Tylee and her mother, the alleged affair between Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell while both of their spouses were alive, and the fringe religious beliefs held by the couple that convinced them they were destined to be together.

Gibb also told prosecutors about a Sept. 22, 2019, trip to Rexburg, Idaho, where she stayed with Vallow Daybell that coincides with the last known time JJ was seen alive.

Gibb started her testimony describing Vallow Daybell’s relationship with 7-year-old, JJ, who had special needs, and how over time her relationship with Chad Daybell “distracted” her, to the point where she couldn’t care for her son as much.

“Just right before he was killed, she just indicated he (JJ) was difficult to handle. And so, it was hard for her to do that and be with Chad,” she said.

Vallow Daybell appeared to be wearing red lipstick in court Thursday, shackled to the floor in large, black boots, loose pinstriped pants and a white shawl. Though Gibb avoided direct eye contact with her former friend, Vallow Daybell repeatedly scowled and shook her head at moments during the testimony, whispering animatedly to her attorney.

Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell met in 2019 at a religious conference in Utah catered to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but not affiliated with the church. Gibb says the two immediately hit it off. “She seemed very interested in him, like someone who was very attracted. She seemed very flattered by him, she seemed very flirty,” Gibb told Idaho prosecutor Lindsey A. Blake. “... He told her that they had been married in another time period.”

While both of Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell’s spouses were still alive, the couple would often meet, staying at hotels, Gibb said. Vallow Daybell said they used their fringe beliefs to justify the affair.

“Because they had been married in multiple lives and because they had a mission together, it was OK,” Gibb told the prosecutor.

Vallow Daybell’s beliefs continued to evolve, Gibb said, and became hard to follow. But a consistent theme, Gibb said, was that people who challenged or questioned Vallow Daybell were deemed dark spirits. That includes Brandon Boudreaux, Vallow Daybell’s former nephew by marriage.

“He was supposedly part of Hitler’s group during that regime. It just evolved, like that,” Gibb told prosecutors.  

Gibb testified that Vallow Daybell told her that she and Daybell believed their spouses were going to die, and then they could be together. Still, Tammy Daybell “was starting to get suspicious,” Gibb said.

Vallow Daybell’s husband, Charles Vallow, was shot to death by her now deceased brother, Alex Cox, who claimed the shooting was self defense. A grand jury in Arizona’s Maricopa County has indicted Vallow Daybell of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in his July 2019 death.

Tammy Daybell, Chad Daybell’s wife, died in October 2019 after Chad Daybell told police she died in her sleep after she went to bed with a cough. Investigators later exhumed her body, and prosecutors in opening arguments Monday revealed she died of asphyxiation at the hands of another person.

Just over two weeks later, Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell were married on a beach in Hawaii, exchanging rings they bought while Tammy was still alive.

On Sept. 22 — which is also the date a picture of JJ was taken, showing him on a couch wearing red pajamas — Gibb was visiting Vallow Daybell in Rexburg. Gibb said Vallow Daybell told her JJ was possessed.

“She would tell me he would say things like ‘I love Satan.’ She told me he would climb up on the refrigerator and go on top of the cabinets,” Gibb said. She went on to testify she never personally saw any behavior like what Vallow described from the 7-year-old, and was skeptical of her claim.

During the cross examination, Vallow Daybell’s attorney John Thomas questioned how Gibb knew the intimate details involving Vallow Daybell’s relationship with her children, and Chad Daybell.

But the bulk of the questions revolved around the couple’s extreme beliefs — specifically, Gibbs’ involvement. She admitted to wanting to believe what Vallow Daybell said at times. “She’s very convincing,” she said

Still, Gibb tried repeatedly to distance herself during the cross examination, telling Thomas that she did not buy into the notion of “zombies” or a spectrum of lightness and darkness, at least to the extent that Vallow Daybell appeared to.

“It felt very unusual. But it felt very innocent to me,” she said.

Thursday ended on a peculiar note, with prosecutors playing a recording of Chad Daybell reciting what he called a blessing to Alex Cox. Lori Vallow Daybell is also present. The three of them can be heard crying throughout the recording.

The recording is dated on Nov. 24 — roughly two weeks later, Cox was found dead of what police say were natural causes. He was never charged in connection with the case.

“You have already assisted us in ways that can never be repaid. And you will continue to do so as you move forward in this life,” Daybell tells Cox, before suggesting that Cox is nearing the end of his own life, telling him, “you will know when it’s time to move to the other side.”

Questions around the death of Charles Vallow

Cox has frequently been referenced in the trial — and on Thursday, Gibb told prosecutors about a conversation she had with Cox, where she asked about JJ’s whereabouts. “You don’t want to know,” Cox told her, according to Gibb.

The second witness called by the prosecution was detective Nathan Duncan with the Chandler Police Department in Arizona. Duncan was the lead investigator in the shooting death of Charles Vallow, at the hands of Cox.

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Duncan detailed a few abnormalities with the shooting — he told prosecutors that he has never seen a shooting with so little blood, and that it appeared that Cox had not performed CPR on Charles Vallow. And when officers removed the body, there was a bullet hole in the floor, meaning it was likely “Charles would have been laying on the ground when that second shot was fired.”

Calls and text messages were reviewed, Duncan said, leading to further investigation.

“In the weeks to months following the death of Charles Vallow, there was some information that came forward that Charles was possibly killed because he was a dark spirit, a zombie, that there was some infidelity, some accusations of infidelity. So I was specifically looking for information related to that,” Duncan said.

Part of the investigation uncovered a phone call that Chad Daybell made to a mortuary, placed the evening following Vallow’s death. Daybell inquires about the price of cremation, and tells the mortuary employee that he lives in Iowa, and that his uncle recently died. Daybell, of course, lived in Idaho.

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