REXBURG, Idaho — A judge on Friday declined to reduce a $1 million bond for the mother of two missing children after her attorney argued that an Idaho jail has improperly recorded their conversations.
Magistrate Judge Michelle Mallard rejected Lori Daybell’s request for a $250,000 bond, saying her right to a fair trial is important but there’s no evidence the calls were recorded without her lawyer’s knowledge.
Daybell, also known as Lori Vallow who has been jailed in Rexburg for about two months, was arrested in Hawaii in February and charged with felony child abandonment. Her 7-year-old son, Joshua “JJ” Vallow, and his big sister, 17-year-old Tylee Ryan, were last seen in September.
Daybell’s attorney, Mark Means, argued that the Madison County Female Detention Center recorded at least two conversations he had with his client from behind a glass wall, even though deputies assured him they would be confidential. Other COVID-19 precautions at the jail require any documents he brings for his client for review be delivered by deputies, Means said, and he suspects more calls have been recorded.
Means argued his client is unemployed, while her husband, Chad Daybell, is a publisher in a tough economic time when “people aren’t buying books.”
“A million dollars is the equivalent of holding my client without bail,” he said.
Means also represents Chad Daybell as the Idaho Attorney General’s Office investigates the couple in connection with the death of Daybell’s first wife.
Prosecutor Rob Wood argued that Means knew a March phone call was being recorded at the time and acknowledged that in a recent court filing.
While two conversations were accidentally taped and later taken offline, the jail has taken steps to make sure that doesn’t happen again, Wood said. A warning is played at the start of each call and is taped if the attorney has not yet filed a phone number with the jail, he said.
And he noted that Daybell and her husband had afforded a move to Hawaii, where they were living before her arrest.
While coronavirus precautions precluding inmates and attorneys from sitting down at a table together have made it more difficult to review documents and prepare a defense, Mallard said, “In this case, I really don’t see an impact on Ms. Daybell’s constitutional rights with the jail process.”
Mallard also said she wants to know if phone calls are being recorded without a warning and believes law enforcers have “great motivation” to make sure that doesn’t happen.
A handcuffed Daybell, wearing an orange-striped jail uniform and a disposable mask, sat quietly and gazed straight ahead when the judge issued her order. She shrugged while speaking with her attorney before she was led out of the courtroom.
A different judge had reduced her bond from $5 million to $1 million in March.
Prosecutors have argued that Daybell has defied civil court orders in child custody proceedings and flew to Hawaii the day after police first questioned her and her husband. Hawaii authorities helped find the couple, and law enforcement escorted Lori Daybell back to Idaho in March.
Authorities have noted her connection to three people who recently died, including her previous husband, and say that demonstrates a “clear and alarming pattern in the defendant’s life.”
She is next due in court for a two-day preliminary hearing, where she will have a chance to hear the evidence against her.
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 the Daybells have lied several times about the children’s whereabouts.
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 of times.
Lori Daybell’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 that 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 were married two weeks later.
Lori Daybell faces 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.