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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Andrea Blanco and Oliver O'Connell

‘Cult mom’ Lori Vallow’s chilling response to question about missing daughter, 16, revealed

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

A former friend of Lori Vallow has revealed the “cult mom’s” chilling response after being confronted about her missing teen daughter.

Ms Vallow’s trial is in its second week at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise, Idaho, almost three years after she was charged with killing her son Joshua “JJ” Vallow, seven, and daughter Tylee Ryan, 16, and conspiring to murder the first wife of her doomsday preacher husband Chad Daybell.

On Friday, Ms Vallow’s former friend and former fellow cult acolyte Zulema Pastenes told the court about the ritualistic “castings” that Ms Vallow and Mr Daybell performed to drive out demons from “dark spirits.” Testifying under oath for the prosecution, Ms Pastenes opened up about Ms Vallow and Mr Daybell’s cult beliefs and their “rating system of light and dark” for how they ranked the spirits of the people around them.

Ms Pastenes recounted a September 2019 visit to Rexburg, where Ms Vallow had moved along with her brother Alex Cox and her children to be closer to Mr Daybell. Ms Pastenes, who dated Cox and later married him just weeks before he died, said that she asked Ms Vallow about Tylee after she didn’t see the teen during her visit.

Ms Vallow reportedly told Ms Pastenes that “[Tylee] had to be freed,” before putting her hand in front of Ms Pastenes’ face and telling her, “Don’t ask.” Ms Pastenes went on to tell jurors that Lori had previously said Tylee was possessed by a demon named “Hillary” and that JJ was also being attacked by dark spirits.

During Ms Pastenes’ trip to Rexburg, JJ was alive and she saw him outside playing with friends as well as when he came into the apartment to ask for a snack. She was also there when Ms Vallow got him ready for bed one night and when she hired a nanny to help care for the little boy.

At that point, Mr Daybell’s first wife Tammy Daybell was also still alive. Ms Pastenes testified that Mr Daybell asked her to lie and send him a text asking for him to come and speak at an event as an excuse to be with Ms Vallow.

After visiting the couple in September — around the same time that JJ was last seen — Ms Pastenes returned to Rexburg to marry Cox. During that trip, there was no sign of Tylee or JJ and she discovered Ms Vallow and Mr Daybell were in Hawaii and had got married when they sent wedding photos.

Ms Pastenes said after Ms Vallow and Mr Daybell got married, they had a layover in Phoenix, Arizona, on their way home so she met them for dinner. When she asked Ms Vallow where JJ was when they were in Hawaii, Ms Vallow reportedly said that JJ was with Kay Woodcock, his biological grandmother.

After marrying Cox, Ms Pastenes said she got a call from Melanie Gibb, who testified on Thursday that Ms Vallow asked her to lie and tell police that JJ was with her in Arizona.

Ms Gibb told Ms Pastenes that she felt they had been deceived by Ms Vallow and Mr Daybell and she felt the couple was doing something wrong that involved the children.

“To hear my friend saying all of this is happening and at the same time knowing how much trust I put in these two people – it was very, very confusing and I was very distraught,” Ms Pastenes said.

Elsewhere in her testimony, Ms Pastenes said that she asked Cox about his involvement in Tammy Daybell’s death. Cox died on 12 December 2019, the day after Mr Daybell and Ms Vallow called to tell him that Tammy’s body was being exhumed.

A day before his death, Ms Pastenes said that Cox told her that he believed his sister and Mr Daybell were trying to frame him as their “fall guy.”

“Fall guy for what? What have you done that you would be the fall guy for?” Ms Pastenes said she asked Cox, but did not obtain an answer.

Ms Pastenes said she only learned Rexburg police were looking for Ms Vallow and Mr Daybell and that JJ and Tylee were missing after Cox died.

Tylee and JJ’s bodies were found buried in a pet cemetery on Mr Daybell’s property on 9 June 2020.

Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow (FBI)

JJ’s body was found buried close to a tree on the property, the court heard on Tuesday. The little boy, who had autism, was still dressed in his red pyjamas and a pull-up night diaper.

His arms were wrapped in duct tape and his head was wrapped in a white plastic bag with thick layers of duct tape around it. He had been partly covered in a blue children’s blanket before wood panelling and three white stones were placed on top of him in the shallow grave.

Ms Pastenes told the court that she met Ms Vallow in November 2018 at Ms Gibb’s house after being invited to hear Ms Vallow speak there. She knew Ms Gibb through the local LDS church.

At the first meeting, Ms Vallow spoke about having visitations with angels and that she visited with Moroni who gave her instructions. Most significantly, Ms Pastenes said Ms Vallow told them she was a witness of Jesus Christ, meaning she had seen Jesus — the highest spiritual experience a person could have.

Ms Vallow also told Ms Pastenes that her husband Charles Vallow was possessed by a dark spirit named Garrett.

She said he had been acting differently, was more organised than before, and was a completely different person. She also said he looked shorter.

Ms Pastenes told the court that Ms Vallow talked about multiple probations and gave her and other women classes on how to “cast out demons.”

Ms Pastenes said that all the women believed they were doing something of value. She described Ms Vallow as “very convincing” with a “charming way of expressing things,” such as her supposed visitations by heavenly beings.

“If someone is telling the truth about that, I wouldn’t be questioning them. I would believe they are telling the truth because I would never think that someone would lie about something as sacred as that,” Ms Pastenes testified.

Ms Pastenes also said that Ms Vallow told her that God had orchestrated Charles Vallow’s death on 711 (11 July 2019) after they cast out his demons. In reality, Vallow was fatally shot by Cox during what police first believed to be a domestic dispute.

At the time, Cox claimed Vallow attacked him with a baseball bat and it was ruled self-defence.

On 11 December 2019, Cox also died suddenly at the age of 51. His death was also ruled natural causes, with indications of a blood clot wedged in the arteries of his lungs. However, the overdose drug Narcan was also found in his system.

Prosecutors also allege that Ms Vallow and Mr Daybell conspired with Ms Vallow’s brother Alex Cox to murder Tammy, JJ and Tylee as part of their doomsday cult beliefs – but also for financial purposes so that they could collect Tammy’s life insurance money and the children’s social security and survivor benefits.

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