REXBURG, Idaho — Authorities arrested a man married to the mother of two missing children after investigators said they recovered human remains Tuesday at his home in rural Idaho.
Chad Daybell was booked into the Fremont County Jail a short time after the discovery, Assistant Rexburg Police Chief Gary Hagen said. The remains, which have not yet been identified, were discovered as several police agencies served a search warrant at his Salem property just north of Rexburg on Tuesday.
Daybell’s wife, Lori Vallow Daybell, is jailed in Rexburg and charged with felony child abandonment. Police say her son Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and his big sister, Tylee Ryan, 17, were last seen in September. Their disappearance has captured attention nationwide.
An aerial photograph captured Tuesday shows a crew wielding shovels or other large tools over a dirt patch at Daybell’s home on the 200 block of 1900 East in Salem, Idaho. Other pictures show crime scene tape and a mobile police command center RV bordering the front lawn of the home.
The FBI was assisting Rexburg officers and the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office in serving the sealed search warrant in the missing children’s case, a spokeswoman confirmed.
Hagen thanked officers, the children’s family and the public Tuesday. He declined to give details on the search but said investigators were “continuing to pursue the property for any other information they can find related to this case.”
Daybell is scheduled to make his first appearance in court Wednesday morning in a hearing that will be broadcast online yet closed to in-person observers amid coronavirus precautions.
As of Tuesday, he had not yet been formally charged with any crime, although a representative of the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office said he was booked on a felony charge and was being held without bail.
Hagen said Daybell, 51, was taken into custody for questioning. In a Tuesday evening press announcement, Hagen said he did not know the potential criminal charge or charges Daybell was being held on.
The East Idaho News reported, however, reported it had obtained jail records showing he was booked for investigation of a felony charge of concealing or destroying evidence.
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.
Chad and Lori Daybell’s attorney, Mark Means, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Kay and Larry Woodcock, JJ’s grandparents, asked for privacy Tuesday night and also requested that people hold off sending flowers or donations for now.
“We got this news early this morning that police and FBI had served a search warrant at Chad Daybell’s property and have been in touch with law enforcement throughout the day. We were notified that law enforcement had discovered human remains on the property. This is obviously a very difficult time for our family, and we ask that you respect our privacy as we wait (for) further news with heavy hearts,” they said.
Prosecutors have said Lori Daybell defied civil court orders in child custody proceedings and flew to Hawaii the day after police first questioned her and her husband about the children’s whereabouts.
They have noted her ties to three people who recently died, including her previous husband.
The case spans several states and includes investigations into 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, which was determined to be from natural causes 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.
The Idaho Attorney General’s office is investigating Chad and Lori Daybell in the death of Tammy Daybell, whose autopsy report has not yet been released.
Lori Daybell is due back in court for a two-day preliminary hearing July 9 and 10.
Contributing: Garna Mejia
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly said Hagen is the police chief. He is actually the assistant chief.