ST. ANTHONY — On what would have been J.J. Vallow’s ninth birthday, the Fremont County Prosecutor’s Office announced it was filing new charges against Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell, including for first-degree murder in the case of missing-turned-murdered children that made international headlines in part due to the couple’s purported doomsday beliefs.
The charges come 18 months after law enforcement began investigating the whereabouts of J.J. and his sister, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan, after J.J.’s grandmother said she was concerned that she had not heard from him in several months. The children’s bodies were found buried on Daybell’s property in June 2020.
“We know many members of the community may feel that progress on this case has been slow,” Fremont County Prosecutor Lindsey Blake said in a news conference held with Special Prosecutor Rob Wood on Tuesday. “Due to the ongoing safety restrictions imposed by the courts during the pandemic, we just recently were given permission to present information to the grand jury for their review.”
In all, a combined nine new charges were filed against Vallow and Daybell. They were each charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan. Additionally, Daybell also was charged with first-degree murder in the death of his first wife Tammy Daybell.
They also were charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and grand theft. The indictment states Daybell, Vallow and Vallow’s since-deceased brother Alex Cox conspired with “other co-conspirators, both known and unknown” to kill J.J. and Tylee.
The indictment states Daybell and Vallow “endorsed and espoused religious beliefs for the purpose or encouraging and/or justifying,” the killings of J.J. and Tylee.
The couple were similarly charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder for working together to kill Tammy Daybell, Daybell’s first wife. The indictment does not say how Tammy Daybell died, but did reveal that the prosecution believes Cox had attempted to shoot her.
On Oct. 9, 2019, Tammy Daybell reported a man in a ski mask pointed what she thought was a paintball gun at her as she was unloading groceries. Fremont County Sheriff’s Office deputies believed at the time the incident was a prank. The indictment states Cox had been practicing at a gun range and had Google searched how to shoot a gun from a car. The indictment also states Cox was in a church parking lot 2.5 miles from the Daybell residence on Oct. 18. Chad Daybell reported Tammy’s death on Oct. 19.
The last three charges are for grand theft, against Lori Vallow, and two counts of insurance fraud, against Daybell.
The indictment states Vallow continued to receive Social Security benefits for her children after their deaths. It also states that on Aug. 16, 2019, Vallow began having the deposits from Social Security benefits deposited into her own account instead of an account for Tylee.
The indictment also states that on Sept. 8, 2019, Chad and Tammy Daybell applied to increase the amount he would receive from her life insurance policy.
Other details revealed in the indictment include that Daybell and Vallow had texted on July 30, 2019, about “death percentages” for the children. It also states that Daybell texted Vallow that he believed Tammy was trapped in limbo, and that she was possessed by a spirit named “Viola.”
Blake and Wood said the indictment was the result of investigative efforts by local, state and federal law enforcement officers working for more than a year.
“On behalf of myself, Lindsey and our prosecution team, we want to express our deep appreciation for the efforts of the dozens of local, state, including the Idaho Attorney General, federal law enforcement members and Arizona law enforcement who have been working to gather evidence for a year-and-a-half to bring justice to Tammy Daybell, Tylee Ryan and J.J. Vallow.”
The charges have been anticipated since Vallow was first arrested in Hawaii in February 2020. She and Daybell fled to the island state after Rexburg police began looking into J.J.’s well-being.
First-degree murder is punishable with a minimum of 10 years in prison and up to a life sentence, or the death penalty. Blake said the prosecution would need to make a decision on whether to pursue the death penalty within 60 days of Daybell and Vallow entering a plea in response to the charges.