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Mother of missing children expected to leave jail after judge reduces bond

Lori Daybell is next due in court March 18 and 19

SHARE Mother of missing children expected to leave jail after judge reduces bond

Lori Vallow Daybell leaves the courtroom following her hearing on Friday, March 6, 2020, in Rexburg, Idaho. Daybell who is charged with felony child abandonment after her two children went missing nearly six months ago had her bond reduced to $1 million by an Idaho judge on Friday.

John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register via AP, Pool

REXBURG, Idaho — The Idaho mother of two missing children last seen about six months ago was expected to leave jail as early as Friday night after a judge reduced bond to $1 million.

Magistrate Judge Faren Eddins lowered Lori Daybell’s bond from $5 million to $1 million in a hearing Friday afternoon, while noting she has not indicated where her kids are despite a court order.

It was Daybell’s first court appearance in Idaho after being arrested in Hawaii last month and charged with felony child abandonment. Her 7-year-old son, Joshua “JJ” Vallow, was last seen Sept. 23, and his big sister, 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, was last seen Sept. 8 — the same day the family went on a daytrip through Yellowstone National Park.

Attorneys for Daybell, 46, argued Friday she is not a flight risk and has no criminal history. They had asked the judge to reduce bond to $10,000, or at least no higher than $50,000, saying the $5 million amount was excessively high amid media attention.

Her attorney Edwina Elcox said Daybell “is dedicated to vigorously defending against these allegations.” 

Elcox said her client likely couldn’t sneak out of the state even if she wanted to.

“She has TV cameras in her face. She has people following her. It is built-in pretrial monitoring to a degree I’ve never seen before,” Elcox said.

She also said prosecutors filed charges as a reaction to media attention, noting she’s been practicing law for 10 years as both a prosecutor and defense attorney and has never seen a child desertion case in that time.

Prosecutors, however, countered that Daybell has defied civil court orders in child custody proceedings in the past, and noted she flew to Hawaii the day after police first questioned her and her husband, Chad Daybell. Hawaii authorities helped find the couple, and law enforcement escorted Lori Daybell back to Idaho on Thursday.

“This case didn’t start as a criminal case, your honor,” said Madison County prosecutor Rob Wood. “It started as a report of two missing children who are still missing.” 

He called the case “heartbreaking.”

Wood said Daybell continued to collect social security meant for her daughter and son after they were last seen. And her connection to three people who recently died, including her previous husband, demonstrates a “clear and alarming pattern in the defendant’s life.”

The judge ordered Lori Daybell to wear an ankle monitor before her release from the jail, and said she must not venture beyond a handful of nearby counties. He required Daybell to also sign an extradition waiver and attend all court hearings.

A handcuffed Daybell, wearing an orange-striped jail uniform and pink lipstick, listened quietly and responded “yes,” to questions from the judge.

While authorities and court documents originally identified her as Lori Vallow, she told the judge she prefers Daybell.

She is next due in court March 18 and 19 for a two-day preliminary hearing, where she will have a chance to hear the evidence against her.

In response to the high-profile hearing, a crowd gathered outside the courthouse Friday, some with posters asking “Where are the children?” Others tied ribbons to a tree in honor of the siblings.

Colby Ryan, Tylee’s older brother, told reporters that “to not know where Tylee and JJ are, to be in a position like this, it’s like a nightmare.”

Larry Woodcock, JJ Vallow’s grandfather, added that he wants the public’s focus to remain on the missing children.

“It’s not about Lori. It’s not even about Chad,” he said. “The law will take care of them.”

Authorities in Rexburg, where the children were last known to be living, have said they “strongly believe that Joshua and Tylee’s lives are in danger.” They also say Vallow and Daybell have lied several times about the children’s whereabouts.

Rexburg police and the FBI are also asking anyone who visited Yellowstone on Sept. 8 to share any photos or videos of their trip with law enforcement.

The case spans several states and includes investigations into three mysterious deaths and rumors of Lori and Chad Daybell’s apocalyptic religious beliefs. They were both involved in an Idaho-based group that promotes preparing for the biblical end times.

Vallow’s estranged husband, Charles Vallow, was shot and killed by her brother Alex Cox before Cox’s own death in July. In divorce documents filed before his death, Vallow alleged his wife believes she is “a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ’s second coming in July 2020.”

Lori Daybell in August moved from Arizona to Idaho, where Chad Daybell lived with his wife. Tammy Daybell died in her sleep in October, and Chad and Lori Daybell wed two weeks later. An autopsy report has not yet been released.

Lori Daybell is charged with two felony counts of child desertion, plus three misdemeanor counts of obstruction, solicitation and contempt after authorities say she gave police false information and directed another person to do the same.