REXBURG, Idaho — The mother of two Idaho children whose remains were found after a monthslong search appeared in court Tuesday to answer new charges alleging she conspired with her husband to conceal or destroy evidence.
Prosecutors in Idaho’s Madison County filed the new charges against Lori Vallow Daybell late Monday, the latest turn in a case that has captured international attention.
They allege Daybell, 46, gave police false information when they questioned her in the search for her son, Joshua “JJ” Vallow, who was 7 years old at the time of his disappearance, and her daughter, Tylee Ryan, 17. Prosecutors say she urged her friend Melanie Gibb to do the same and did not produce the kids despite a court order.
So far, no one has been charged in the deaths of the children.
The kids’ remains were found at the rural Idaho home of Daybell’s husband, Chad Daybell, on June 9. He has pleaded not guilty to two charges of concealing or destroying evidence after police say he hid or destroyed human remains to prevent them from being discovered or used in a felony case.
The puzzling case has spanned several states, delving into rumors of the couple’s apocalyptic religious beliefs, which include assertions about zombies possessing now-deceased family members and the deaths of their former spouses.
A judge in Rexburg on Monday set bail in Lori Daybell’s new case at $1 million. She faces two felony counts of conspiracy to destroy, alter or conceal evidence.
Wearing a blue sweater and face mask as she sat beside her attorney, Lori Daybell replied “yes” to questions from the judge during the brief hearing.
Defense lawyers for the Daybells have said their clients, jailed as they await trial, are committed to defending themselves against the allegations.
Lori Daybell was arrested in Hawaii earlier this year, where authorities say she and her husband traveled after they were questioned about the children’s whereabouts. She was charged in February with counts including felony child abandonment.
Newly unsealed court documents say Gibb heard Lori Daybell early in 2019 telling Chad Daybell she had a “vision” that her son and her then-husband Charles Vallow would die in a car crash by January. That did not happen, but Lori Daybell told Gibb that according to Chad Daybell, “his spirit had left his body and been replaced by another spirit which was a dark spirit.”
Lori Daybell reportedly told Gibb she claimed to have cancer in order to persuade JJ’s grandmother to allow the child to live with his grandparents.
Earlier court filings say cellphone data places Lori Daybell’s now-deceased brother at her Idaho home in the hours after the kids were last seen alive, and then at the sites where their remains were found months later.
The uncle, Alex Cox, shot and killed Lori Daybell’s former spouse, Vallow, in a July 2019 confrontation in Arizona. Cox, who said he shot Vallow in self-defense, later died of a blood clot in his lung, a medical examiner found.
Unsealed court documents say the Daybells believe their mission includes leading the “144,000” and ridding “the world of ‘zombies.’’’
Around the same time her two children disappeared, Lori Daybell told Gibb and her boyfriend the kids had become “zombies,” their bodies overtaken by dark spirits that could be vanquished only by death, reflecting a teaching of Chad Daybell’s, the documents say.
Remains of Chad Daybell’s former wife Tammy Daybell, whose obituary says she died in her sleep in October, have been exhumed; an autopsy has not yet been released. Chad and Lori Daybell were married about two weeks after Tammy Daybell’s death.
Authorities say Lori Daybell and her children had just recently moved to Rexburg from Arizona when family members first reported concerns about the kids’ whereabouts. Daybell told JJ’s school he would be home-schooled and had told authorities Tylee was studying at BYU-Idaho, but the university had no records of her enrollment, court documents say.
Lori Daybell has a preliminary hearing on the new charges August 10 and 11.