The judge described it as “the most shocking thing I can imagine.”

Lori Vallow Daybell was sentenced to life in prison Monday for the murder of her two youngest children, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old JJ Vallow.

She was also given a life sentence for conspiracy to commit murder in connection to the death of Tammy Daybell, the spouse of Chad Daybell, whom she later married.

Judge Steven Boyce determined that the life sentences for the murders would all run consecutively, saying that three separate murders had happened at three separate times, and that Vallow Daybell should be held responsible for each of them. She has no option for parole, though she can appeal the conviction within 42 days.

Vallow Daybell also received two life sentences for conspiring to murder her children and 10 years for grand theft, with those prison terms running concurrently to the life sentences for the three murder convictions.

As Lori Vallow goes to trial, Rexburg hopes to breathe a sigh of relief

The sentencing, which took place at Idaho’s Fremont County Courthouse in St. Anthony Monday afternoon, likely marks a final chapter in the high-profile murder case surrounding the mother convicted of killing her children and her future husband’s spouse.

It was the first time since the start of the trial that Vallow Daybell broke her silence to explain her fringe religious beliefs, speaking to the court and describing how a near death experience gave her “access to heaven and the spirit world.”

“I know for a fact that my children are happy and busy in the spirit world. Because of my communications with my friend Tammy Daybell, I know that she is also very happy and busy. I have always mourned the loss of my loved ones and I have lost many in this mortal world,” a tearful Daybell said.

‘The most evil and destructive path’

Monday was also the first time that victims, and Boyce, addressed Vallow Daybell directly. And Boyce, who oversaw weeks of emotional testimony and graphic depictions of the murders, chastised her for a “shocking” lack of remorse.

“The most unimaginable type of murder is to have a mother murder her own children, and that’s exactly what you did,” Boyce told her, emphasizing that she still takes no responsibility for her actions or the heartache she has caused many others. “It is the most shocking thing I can imagine.”

“You had so many other options,” the judge said, describing her choice to uproot her children, move to Idaho, and isolate them in order to pursue her own romantic interests, rather than simply seeking a divorce or finding someone who could take them. “You chose the most evil and destructive path possible.”

Boyce did not accept her religious justification for the crimes.

“I’m not here to judge that but I don’t believe that any God in any religion would want to have happen, what happened here,” he said.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors called dozens of witnesses to testify, many of them law enforcement who worked the crime scenes and discovered the mutilated bodies of Vallow Daybell’s children.

“The criminal scene was a horrific thing to have to review. And there’s images that I will never get out of my mind,” Boyce said, pointing also to the impact of the crime on law enforcement who investigated and jurors who reviewed the case.

He expressed amazement that in a short amount of time, Vallow Daybell had gone from having no criminal history to being convicted in Idaho of three murders and is still facing charges in another state.

Vallow Daybell is also charged in Arizona with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the attempted shooting of her niece’s former husband, Brandon Boudreaux, and conspiracy to commit murder in connection to the death of her fourth husband, Charles Vallow.

Lori Vallow Daybell is pictured at her sentencing in St. Anthony, Idaho Monday, July 31, 2023. In May, Vallow Daybell was found guilty on six counts that included murder, conspiracy and grand theft related to the deaths 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old JJ Vallow, and Tammy Daybell, the spouse of Chad Daybell. | Tony Blakeslee, East Idaho News

Vallow Daybell breaks her silence

In an unexpected turn, Vallow Daybell addressed the court before the sentence was handed down Monday, describing visits she’s had from the spirits of her murdered children and who she referred to as “my eternal friend Tammy Daybell,” all of whom she said visited her on several occasions. At no time did she apologize or express remorse for what happened.

Vallow Daybell began by quoting scripture, talking about her relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Jesus knows me. And Jesus understands me. I mourn with all of you who mourn my children and Tammy,” she said. “Jesus Christ knows the truth of what happened here. Jesus Christ knows that no one was murdered in this case. Accidental deaths happen. Suicides happen. Fatal side effects from medications happen,” she said. 

Both of her children are happy in the afterlife, Vallow Daybell said. Tylee is free from pain, and has told her to “stop worrying, Mom, I’m fine,” she told the court, and JJ is grown and happy.

“The first time JJ visited me after he passed away he put his arm around me and said to me ‘you didn’t do anything wrong, Mom. I love you and I know you loved me every minute of my life.’ JJ was an adult spirit and he was very tall when he put his arm around me. ... He’s busy, engaged, he has jobs he’s doing there, he’s happy where he lives,” she said. 

Vallow Daybell closed her emotional comments claiming that she will one day be reunited with Tammy Daybell and her two children.

“I look forward to the day we are all reunited and I too, will rest with them in the arms of my Jesus,” she said.

But in the end, Vallow Daybell’s closing remarks only reinforced Boyce’s belief that the mother was unapologetic, and deserved a life sentence.

“You justified all of this by going down a bizarre, religious rabbit hole and clearly you are still down there,” he said.

The judge also noted that Vallow Daybell had refused to comply during a pre-sentencing evaluation that would have provided more information for him to consider about her mental state. He did point to a “complex” diagnosis completed in February that points to “delusional disorder mixed-type with bizarre content and hyper-religiosity, continuous and unspecified personality disorder with ... narcissistic features.” 

Lori Vallow Daybell.
Lori Vallow Daybell is pictured in a new mugshot released Monday, May 15, 2023. | Lori Vallow Daybell

‘No angels are coming to rescue you’: Victims speak to Vallow Daybell

The courtroom was packed Monday. Crowds started gathering outside the Fremont County Courthouse by 6 p.m. the night before. Roughly 40 to 50 people spent the night, holding their place in line.

Vallow Daybell arrived in the courtroom at about 9:05 a.m. dressed in an orange jumpsuit, wearing makeup and carrying a manilla envelope. 

Four victims addressed the judge in the sentencing hearing: Colby Ryan, Vallow Daybell’s son; Samantha Gwilliam, Tammy Daybell’s sister; Vicki Hoban, Tammy Daybell’s aunt; and Kay Woodcock, JJ’s grandmother. 

Woodcock, who testified during the trial and has been outspoken throughout the yearslong case, spent much of her time detailing the life of JJ Vallow.

“Seventy-two days. That is how many days it took Lori to take everything from JJ. He lost his dad, his home, his best friend Bailey, his beloved big sister and his life. All in 72 days,” Woodcock said. “She killed him slowly by taking away everything that mattered.”

The murders, Woodcock said, were a result of Vallow Daybell’s pursuit of money. She used religion and sex to manipulate those around her — but in the end, she simply viewed her children and Tammy Daybell as obstacles, Woodcock told the court. There was “zero mental illness that drove her to commit these heinous acts. Rather she is driven by her greed,” Woodcock said.

“This all began with greed, the greed for and desire for a $1 million life insurance policy. She should have answered my calls. She should have spoken to me. I would have given her the money. She could have let JJ and Tylee live and had $1 million,” she told the court.

A timeline of the Lori Vallow-Chad Daybell murder case
Kay and Larry Woodcock, the grandparents of JJ Vallow, embrace each other during the sentencing hearing of Lori Vallow Daybell at the Fremont County Courthouse in St. Anthony, Idaho.
Kay and Larry Woodcock, the grandparents of JJ Vallow, embrace each other after Lori Vallow Daybell gave her victim impact statement during the sentencing hearing of Vallow Daybell at the Fremont County Courthouse in St. Anthony, Idaho, Monday, July 31, 2023. Idaho mother Vallow Daybell has been sentenced to life in prison without parole Monday in the murders of her two youngest children and a romantic rival in a case that included bizarre claims that her son and daughter were zombies and that she was a goddess sent to usher in the Biblical apocalypse. | Tony Blakeslee, East Idaho News

Ryan, who was featured in a Netflix documentary, was not present at the sentencing to read his impact statement. Instead, it was read by Madison County prosecutor Rob Wood.

“This has affected me personally more than I could ever possibly put into words,” read Ryan’s statement. “I’ve lost my entire family in life. I lost the opportunity to share life with the people I love the most. I’ve watched everything crumble and be shredded to pieces. I have lost my sister, brother, father and my mother. I’ve lost cousins and family, friends and everything in between.”

Samantha Gwilliam, Tammy Daybell’s sister, who after reading an impact statement from her father told Vallow Daybell “everything about you that you tried to tell others is a lie.”

“You will have to live in your prison cell for the rest of your life. You are not an exalted being and there’s no huge event that is going to save you. No jail walls are going to fall so you can leave. No angels are coming to rescue you,” Gwilliam said, speaking to a seemingly unimpressed Vallow Daybell, who for most of the statement sat slumped in her chair, turned away.

Prosecutor: Vallow Daybell has no ‘place among the rest of us.’

After the impact statements, Wood addressed the court and advocated for five fixed life sentences for Vallow Daybell without the chance of parole.

“Some crimes are so heinous that you simply lose your place among the rest of us. Killing your own children and your boyfriend’s wife are these types of crimes,” said Wood.

“If these crimes don’t merit that type of sentence,” he said, “what kind of crimes would?”

John Thomas, Vallow Daybell’s defense attorney, asked the court to sentence her to a 20-year fixed term, with an indeterminate term of life. He also asked for a 14-year concurrent sentence for the grand theft charge. Thomas told the court that would meet all the requirements, “with an added bonus of hope.”

“If you give her a fixed life sentence, you will have essentially thrown her away,” Thomas said. “However, if we give her hope, we protect society by keeping her behind bars well into her 70s. She has the incentive to be a model prisoner. She has the incentive to help those women that she interacts with in prison. And over time, she changes her behavior.”

Thomas painted a very different picture of Vallow Daybell than what was portrayed by prosecutors and ultimately accepted by Boyce. He admitted she’s “probably the most hated woman in America right now. And maybe in the world.”

But she’s misunderstood, Thomas said, telling the court that the “overarching concept behind Lori” is love.

“If you get to know Lori, you’ll find that she’s a very different person than she plays on TV. She’s kind, she’s loving, she’s caring. She’s very witty, insightful. She’s smart,” Thomas said.

Almost four years later

In May, a jury unanimously found Vallow Daybell guilty of the following:

  • First-degree murder in the death of Tylee.
  • First-degree murder in the death of JJ.
  • Conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft in the death of Tylee.
  • Conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft in the death of JJ.
  • Conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the death of Tammy Daybell.
  • Grand theft for allegedly collecting social security benefits allocated to Tylee and JJ.

In September 2019, Vallow Daybell’s two children disappeared. It was later discovered that they had been murdered and buried in a shallow grave behind the Rexburg home of Chad Daybell, the man she was believed to be having an affair with and the apparent source of her fringe beliefs.

Then in October 2019, Daybell’s wife, Tammy, was killed by what investigators said was asphyxiation in her sleep, though at the time her death was ruled natural. Just two weeks later, while her children were still unaccounted for, Lori Vallow married Chad Daybell on a beach in Hawaii.

The honeymoon didn’t last long. That December, Tammy Daybell’s body was exhumed, and Tylee and JJ were declared missing. A court ordered Vallow Daybell to produce her children by Jan. 30, 2020. When she failed to comply, she was arrested in Hawaii about four weeks later.

On June 9, 2020, police executed a search warrant and found the bodies of Tylee and JJ buried in Daybell’s backyard. Tylee’s remains were so mutilated that authorities were unable to determine a cause of death. JJ, bound by duct tape and a plastic bag, was killed by asphyxiation.

Chad Daybell was arrested that day.

Trial date set for Chad Daybell

Daybell is charged with three counts of conspiracy and three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his wife and Lori Vallow Daybell’s two children. He is also charged with two counts of insurance fraud.

Daybell has pleaded not guilty, and prosecutors are pursuing the death penalty. A trial is scheduled for April 1, 2024 in Ada County, Idaho.