BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The mother of two kids who were found dead last year in Idaho and her new husband have been charged with murder in a bizarre case involving doomsday religious beliefs.
Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell were each indicted by a grand jury Monday on charges of conspiracy, murder and grand theft in connection with the deaths of Lori Daybell’s two youngest children, 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan.
Chad Daybell was also charged with one count of murder in connection with the death of his late wife, Tammy Daybell, just weeks before his marriage to the co-defendant.
The indictiment, released Tuesday, doesn’t reveal any details of how the three victims died. But it does say that both Chad and Lori Daybell endorsed and espoused specific religious beliefs in order to justify or encourage the killing of the two children. They were missing for several months starting in 2019 until authorities last year when found their bodies buried on Chad Daybell’s property.
Both the Daybells have been in jail for months awaiting trial on charges including conspiracy or destruction of evidence after prosecutors said they conspired to hide the childrens’ remains. But the indictment released Tuesday marked the first time murder charges have been brought in the case.
Both Daybells pleaded not guilty to the earlier charges. They have not yet had the opportunity to enter a plea on the murder charges and will have their first court appearance on the new charges on Wednesday.
The complex case began in 2018, according to the indictment, when Chad and Lori Daybell — both still married to other people — began espousing their apocolyptic system of religious belief. Things may have begun to publicly unravel in the summer of 2019, however, when Lori Daybell’s brother Alex Cox shot and killed her estranged husband, Charles Vallow, in suburban Phoenix.
Cox asserted the shooting was in self-defense, and he was never charged in connection with Vallow’s death. At the time, Charles Vallow was seeking a divorce, saying his wife believed she had become a god-like figure who was responsible for ushering in the biblical end of times.
Shortly after Vallow’s death, the defendant and the children moved to Idaho, where Chad Daybell lived. He ran a small publishing company, putting fiction books he wrote about apocalyptic scenarios loosely based on the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He also recorded podcasts about preparing for the apocalypse, and friends said he claimed to be able to receive visions from “beyond the veil.”
At the time, Chad Daybell was married to Tammy Daybell, a fit 49-year-old school librarian who helped him run the publishing company. She died in October of 2019, and her obituary said she died in her sleep of natural causes.
Authorities grew suspicious when Chad Daybell remarried just two weeks later, and they had Tammy Daybell’s body exhumed in Utah in December. The results of that autopsy have not been released.
Police began searching for Tylee and JJ in November after relatives raised concerns. Police say the Daybells lied to investigators about the children’s whereabouts before quietly leaving Idaho. The Daybells were found in Hawaii months later, without the children.