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Lori Vallow called husband Chad Daybell from jail on day missing children's bodies found on his Idaho property

Lori Vallow’s husband Chad Daybell appeared in court this week for a preliminary hearing. The remains of his wife’s children, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan, were found on Daybell’s Fremont County, Idaho property in June. A judge determined there was enough evidence for the case to go to trial. Vallow was arrested in February and is being held on a $1 million bond in Fremont County. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for August 10.

An Idaho judge ruled Tuesday that there is enough evidence against Lori Vallow’s husband, Chad Daybell, for the case against him to go to trial. The remains of two of Vallow’s children were found on Daybell’s property in June.

Daybell is charged with two felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence and two felony counts of destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence. He pleaded not guilty to these charges, according to court documents. He is schedule to appear for an arraignment on Aug. 21, in Fremont County. Daybell’s wife, Lori Vallow, is the mother of the children, Tylee Ryan and Joshua “JJ” Vallow, who had not been seen since September 2019.

Joshua Vallow and Tylee Ryan.
Joshua Vallow and Tylee Ryan.Freemont County Sheriff's Office

A criminal complaint alleges that Daybell concealed the remains between Sept. 22, 2019, and June 9, 2020. Rexburg Police in Idaho began the search for the children in November 2019 when JJ’s grandmother requested a welfare check on him.

Vallow and Daybell had refused to cooperate with the investigation and left the state. Vallow was arrested in February in Hawaii on charges of desertion and nonsupport of dependent children. Following the discovery of her children’s remains, Vallow is now facing two felony charges of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence. The initial charges that prompted Vallow’s February arrest have been dropped.

In Madison County, Idaho, Vallow is also charged with misdemeanor resisting or obstructing officers, criminal solicitation to commit a crime and contempt of court. She pleaded not guilty to those charges. A jury trial is set for January 2021.

Chad Daybell at his preliminary hearing.
Chad Daybell at his preliminary hearing.

The ruling for Daybell’s case to go to trial came down Tuesday after a two-day preliminary hearing of witness testimony and evidence. Over a dozen witnesses were called to the stand, including detectives who described the gruesome discovery of the bodies of 17-year-old Tylee and 7-year-old JJ, on Daybell’s property in Fremont County, Idaho, on June 9 following a months long search.

In his testimony, Rexburg Police Detective Ray Hermosillo said JJ’s body was found in a black plastic bag, buried beneath fresh sod, which was under three large flat white rocks in a row, along with a piece of wood paneling.

“As soon as they removed the paneling, I immediately could smell the odor of a decomposing body,” Det. Hermosillo said. “They discovered what would appear to be a mass of burnt flesh and charred bone.”

He also said JJ was covered in a white trash bag and his wrists and ankles were bound with duct tape. He was wearing red pajamas and black socks.

The body of JJ’s sister, Tylee, was found a short distance away, Hermosillo testified. They found evidence that her remains appeared to have been burned, he said. During the detective’s testimony, JJ’s grandparents were seen weeping in court.

The bodies were found by tracking the movements of Lori Vallow’s brother, Alex Cox, using cellphone data. Cox died of an apparent blood clot in his lung in December 2019.

Authorities are still investigating the deaths of other family members linked to Vallow and Daybell.

In July 2019, police responded to Vallow’s home in Arizona where her then-husband, Charles Vallow, had been shot and killed by Vallow’s brother, Alex Cox. Cox claimed he shot him in self-defense following an argument between his sister and her husband.

In October of 2019, Daybell's wife, Tammy, 49, was found dead at their home in Idaho of what was initially believed to be natural causes. Her body was exhumed in December after authorities began to question the circumstances of her death. Autopsy results are pending.

Just two weeks after Tammy’s death, Daybell and Vallow were married in Hawaii where there was no sign of the children.

This week’s hearing also featured testimony from the couple’s mutual friend, Melanie Gibb, who is considered a key witness in the case. Gibb told Dateline in Junethat when she visited with Lori and Chad in September, she saw JJ. Gibb said Lori confided in her that JJ had become a zombie just the day before. Gibb said Tylee was not there during that visit and the couple was under the belief Tylee was also a zombie. Neither child was seen alive after September.

During the initial welfare check on JJ in November 2019 requested by his grandmother, Vallow had told police that JJ was with her friend Gibb in Gilbert, Arizona.

“She said, ‘I told the police that you were at ‘Frozen 2’ with JJ.” Gibb said on the stand. “(Lori said), ‘Get your cell phone out and take a picture of random kids running around to make it look like you (have) him with you.'”

When Gibb was asked by a police officer about JJ’s whereabouts, she told them, “I had been with JJ but he’s back with Lori.”

Gibb testified that she later called the same police officer and admitted that she had not been with JJ.

When asked on the stand why she initially lied to the police officer, Gibb claimed that Vallow was “manipulating me” to believe JJ was in danger. She added that Vallow told her she was worried that JJ’s grandmother Kay Woodcock had also turned into a zombie and was going to kidnap JJ.

“I was very perplexed, very troubled, and I really did not know what to do,” Gibb said.

She later recorded a 21-minute phone call between herself and Vallow and Daybell.

The phone call was played in court this week. Gibb is heard asking the couple about JJ’s whereabouts. On the call, Vallow tells Gibb she had to move JJ and was “keeping him protected.”

A more recent phone call, this one between Vallow and Daybell, was also played during the hearing. The call took place at the same time authorities were searching Daybell’s property: June 9 -- the day the children’s bodies were discovered.

Vallow is heard from jail asking, “Are they seizing stuff again?” Daybell replies with, “They’re searching. They have search warrants and stuff.” Their phone call ends with the two of them saying, “I love you.”

On Thursday, Vallow waived her preliminary hearing, which means her case will now go directly to district court. Vallow will either plead guilty or not guilty to the conspiracy charges she faces. If she pleads not guilty, a judge will set a jury trial date. Her court arraignment date has not been scheduled.