By Nate Eaton
REXBURG, Idaho — Court documents obtained by EastIdahoNews.com detail the steps Rexburg police have taken to locate missing Rexburg children Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 17, along with evidence collected and alleged false statements that were made to detectives.
The children’s mother, Lori Vallow Daybell, 46, was arrested Thursday afternoon in Hawaii and is being held at the Kauai Police Department Detention Facility on $5 million bond pending extradition to Idaho. She is charged with two counts of desertion and nonsupport of children, resisting and/or obstructing an officer, solicitation and contempt.
In a 14-page affidavit of probable cause filed in Madison County, Rexburg police detective Ron Ball notes his investigation began when Rexburg police were contacted by the Gilbert, Arizona, Police Department on Nov. 25. JJ’s grandparents, Kay and Larry Woodcock, requested a welfare check on their grandson.
The initial visit
JJ was last seen alive on Sept. 23 at Kennedy Elementary School in Rexburg. The next day, Lori told administrators he would no longer be attending and she would now home-school him. No requests were made for JJ’s transcripts, according to the probable cause.
Police went to Lori’s home on Pioneer Road on Nov. 26 and met with Alex Cox, Daybell’s brother, and (her now-husband) Chad Daybell, who was outside the residence.
“Chad acted as if he didn’t know Lori very well and stated he didn’t know her phone number,” the probable cause states. “Alex told the detectives that (Joshua Vallow) was with his grandma, Kay Woodcock, in Louisiana, which was not likely to be true due to the fact that Kay was the individual who first called in a missing child report to the Gilbert Police Department.”
Cox told officers Lori might be in apartment 107, but it was vacant. Chad Daybell then tried to drive away, and a detective stopped him. Chad Daybell told the investigator that the last time he had seen JJ was in apartment 107 in October. He also admitted that he knew Lori’s phone number, according to court documents.
Police found Lori in her apartment, and she told them JJ was with Melanie Gibb, a friend in Gilbert. Gibb participated as a co-host with Chad and Lori Daybell on a “Preparing the People” podcast. Investigators called Gibb but were unable to reach her. They followed up with Lori, who said that her friend and JJ were at “Frozen 2.” Officers told Lori to tell her friend to call them.
Rexburg police had not heard from Gibb that night so they called the Gilbert Police Department. Officers in Arizona went to Gibb’s home. She was not there, but they reached her by phone, and she told them JJ had not been there for several months.
“On Dec. 6, 2019, RPD was contacted by (Gibb) and informed that both Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow called Melanie on Nov. 26, 2019, at separate times and asked her to tell police that she had (JJ) even though (JJ) was not with her,” court documents state. “Melanie informed RPD that she declined Chad’s and Lori’s requests.”
Ball writes that the statement Lori made about JJ being with Gibb “delayed the investigation into the whereabouts and safety of (JJ) by requiring us to take time to investigate a lead that was verified as false.”
Police served search warrants at Lori’s and Cox’s apartments on Nov. 27. Police believe Lori and Chad Daybell left Rexburg the day before and Melanie Boudreaux, a relative, later confirmed that information to investigators.
During the search of Lori’s apartment, police found an autism medication prescribed to JJ. It was filled in January 2019 and still had 17 pills in the bottle, according to documents. Police verified that the prescription has not been filled in Idaho.
Investigators went to Self-Storage Plus that same day and found a variety of JJ’s items, as previously reported by EastIdahoNews.com. Lori abandoned the unit and has not paid the required fees since January 2020.
Through their investigation, police learned Tylee moved to Rexburg with Lori around Sept. 1 or 2, 2019. Lori said her daughter was attending classes at Brigham Young University-Idaho, but records show she was never enrolled at any BYU campus.
Neighbors told officers they witnessed Lori, Tylee and JJ moving into their apartment and saw them a few times in September.
“These same neighbors have further informed us … that one of their children went to Lori’s apartment sometime in late September to play with (JJ), and the child was informed by Lori Vallow that (JJ) was not there and that he had gone to stay with his grandma,” the affidavit of probable cause says.
Police obtained phone records that show Lori, Cox and JJ went to Yellowstone National Park on Sept. 8. Officers also received a photo of Tylee at the park entrance.
“This is the last time we can find any record of T.R. (Tylee Ryan) being with Lori Vallow. We have found no witnesses who can verify they have seen T.R. since Sept. 8, 2019,” documents say.
Chad and Lori Daybell flew to Kauai on Dec. 1. Police do not believe they have returned to the mainland since that time. The children were not with them and have not been seen by anyone in Hawaii. Lori Daybell has not provided police with any information on their whereabouts.
“RPD has learned that Lori Vallow used the website www.care.com to find a babysitter for (JJ),” court documents say. “We contacted this babysitter and she informed us that she watched (JJ) on the 19th of September. … The babysitter understood that her employment was to be ongoing. The babysitter reports that on Sept. 24, 2019, she reached out to Lori Vallow, and Lori told her that (JJ) had gone to stay with his grandma for several weeks and that the babysitter’s services were no longer needed.”
Ball notes Lori Daybell ignored a Child Protection Action to produce her children in Rexburg by Jan. 30, and there are no other court records establishing guardianship to anyone other than her.
EastIdahoNews.com was in Kauai when Chad and Lori were pulled over in a black Ford Explorer on Jan. 26. A search warrant was served at the Kauai Beach Resort, and officers took birth certificates belonging to Tylee and JJ, Tylee’s financial transaction card, JJ’s iPad, another iPad that was logged into JJ’s Apple account and JJ’s school registration receipts from Kennedy Elementary.
Police learned that Tylee’s financial transaction card, which was with Lori Daybell, had been used since Tylee was last seen.
Officers served a search warrant at the condo where Chad and Lori Daybell were staying. They found beach chairs, two yoga mats and beach towels, but nothing belonging to children. Two bedrooms were in the unit, but the second room “had no sign of being lived in or otherwise occupied.”
Other items detectives learned
Ball notes other items detectives discovered during the investigation, including the fact that Lori Daybell sent an email to Dog Training Elite in Arizona regarding JJ’s service dog, Bailey. Lori Daybell asked about finding another family due to a “change in life circumstances.” The dog was picked up on Aug. 30, 2019.
Investigators also spoke with Chad Daybell’s parents in Springville, Utah, and they told them Chad and Lori told them in November that Lori was an “empty-nester.” The sister of Tammy Daybell, Chad’s deceased wife, told officers that Chad told them Lori had no juvenile children.
“RPD has found no evidence or verification of anyone providing for the housing, food, clothing, education, or medical care of (JJ) since Sept. 24, 2019, and T.R. since Sept. 8, 2019,” the probable cause reads.
Why police consider Lori Vallow Daybell a flight risk
In the probable cause, Ball says the Daybells have significant financial resources obtained by at least one life insurance policy on Chad Daybell’s dead wife, Tammy Daybell. Ball writes at least $430,000 was obtained from the policy following her Oct. 19, 2019 death.
Police also write how within days of attempting to locate the children in November, the couple abruptly left to Hawaii, cutting Lori Daybell’s ties to Madison County.
“She no longer has a home here and she has abandoned a significant amount of property here,” Ball writes.
In the court document, investigators point out how Lori Daybell already showed a willingness to ignore the court order given to her in January to produce the kids.
Daybell is expected to have her first court hearing in Kauai on Friday. She could then be extradited to Madison County, where she will appear before a judge on these charges.