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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Fiona Leishman

How 'cult mum' Lori Vallow Daybell's doomsday obsession led to murders of 'zombie' kids

An Idaho woman who became known as a 'cult mum' in a murder case which gripped the US has been found guilty of murdering two of her three children.

Lori Vallow Daybell was found guilty of the first degree murder of Tylee Ryan, 16, and Joshua 'JJ' Vallow, seven, conspiracy to murder her husband's first wife Tammy Daybell, 49, and grand theft, by a jury in Boise, Idaho, on Friday May 12.

It took jurors just seven hours to decide her fate after a 28-day trial in which the prosecution presented more than 15,000 texts as evidence, along with chilling testimony from witnesses and graphic and gruesome photos from the scene after the kids' bodies were found.

Lori Vallow Daybell stands and listens as the jury's verdict is read at the Ada County Courthouse in Boise, Idaho (Kyle Green/AP/REX/Shutterstock)

Originally, Vallow Daybell was set to be tried alongside her husband, fellow cult member and alleged accomplice, Chad Daybell, however Judge Steven Boyce made the decision to separate the cases - with Daybell set to go on trial at a later date.

The case also had to be moved from Rexburg, Idaho, where Vallow Daybell and her two children, Tylee and JJ, lived.

However the case was moved to Boise in order to try and find a jury who were not overly familiar with the case and would not have any prejudices which may impact their ability as a juror to be objective.

So what exactly happened in the Idaho murders? And who is Lori Vallow Daybell?

Disappearance of Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow

Lori Vallow Daybell married Chad Daybell just two weeks after his first wife died (Rexberg Police Dept/ Handout)

After the death of Vallow Daybell's fourth husband, Charles Vallow, on July 11, 2019, Vallow Daybell moved with the two children to Rexburg, Idaho - reportedly to be closer to hew new romantic interest Chad Daybell.

On September 3, 2019, JJ was enrolled at Kennedy Elementery in Rexburg, by Lori. Less than three weeks later, JJ was removed with the school saying Lori told them he would be homeschooled instead.

Tylee was never officially enrolled in any schools in Idaho, though Lori told police later her daughter was attending BYU-Idaho as a college student.

Tylee and JJ were last seen together September 8, 2019, at the entrance to Yellowstone National park with Vallow Daybell and her brother, Alex Cox. JJ was last seen alive on September 22, 2019. The last proof of him being alive was a photo showing the young boy sat on a sofa in matching red pyjamas.

Grandparents, Larry and Kay Woodcock, grew concerned after not hearing from the children for a while and contacted authorities to perform a welfare check. The alarm for the missing children was raised November 26, with the children last seen alive on September 8.

Police checked Vallow Daybell's townhome in Rexburg, Idaho, but said they couldn't see any signs of the children. Vallow Daybell told police JJ was staying with her friend, Melani Gibb in Arizona. Initially, Melani covered for the couple at their behest, telling police JJ was with her.

However, she later confronted Vallow Daybell and Daybell as to why she was asked to lie about having JJ with her, recording the conversation due to her growing suspicions. On December 6, Melani contacts police - telling them that the couple had asked her to lie about JJ's whereabotus, recanting her statement.

Two weeks later, December 20, 2019, the Rexburg Police Department formally announced Tylee and JJ as missing - saying their disappearance could be linked to Tammy's death. On December 21, 2019, Vallow Daybell and Daybell were referred to as 'persons of interest' in the disappearance of the children.

Death of Tammy Daybell

Investigators searching Chad Daybell's Salem, Idaho, property for human remains (AP)

Tammy Daybell died October 19, 2019 - originally her death was not deemed suspicious and her family declined an autopsy. Less than a month later, around November 5, Chad Daybell had remarried -with vallow Daybell becoming his second wife in a beach ceremony in Hawaii.

After Tylee and JJ were reported missing, and as authorities began to delve into Vallow Daybell and Daybell's lives and their strange beliefs and 'cult' they began to question Tammy's death. In December 2019, her body was exhumed and an autopsy carried out. It concluded she had died of asphyxiation, with prosecutor Lindsey Blake saying in opening statements of Vallow Daybell's trial it was "at the hands of another".

In fact, it was uncovered that on September 8, 2019, the last day Tylee was seen alive, Chad Daybell signed an application to increase the life insurance policy on his wife, Tammy, to the maximum allowed.

Online activity from an account linked to Vallow Daybell presented in court showed her searching for malachite wedding rings on August 25, 2019, before going on to order two. At this point, Tammy Daybell was still alive.

On the day of Tammy's funeral, Vallow Daybell was searching for wedding dresses in Kauai, Hawaii. Photos of Vallow Daybell and Daybell's wedding were also shown - with close up photos of hands wearing malachite rings.

'Doomsday cult' teachings and 'zombies'

Vallow Daybell reportedly became 'fixated' on Chad Daybell's religious teachings (AP)

One of the aspects of the cae which has gripped many has been the strange 'doomsday' cult beliefs which Vallow Daybell was said to follow. Her husband, Chad Daybell, a religious author, was said to be the leader of the cult - which took views based on the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) to an extreme level.

A police report said Vallow Daybell and her husband believed in reincarnation, with Daybell telling Vallow Daybell she was a "Goddess" sent to bring the second coming of Christ. When they met, Chad reportedly told Vallow Daybell they had been married in seven previous lifetimes.

There was scoring system to determine whether people were good or evil, and people were ranked on a scale of 'light' to 'dark' based on how many previous lives they had lived before, as well as whether they had made contact with God or Satan.

Daybell taught that 'dark' individuals were from this earth, but followers of Satan, while those who were 'light' were "followers of Jesus Christ". Then there were the "zombies".

The term zombie was used to refer to a person who had, according to the belief system, died and had their body possessed by evil spirits. The loose religious group would pray to try and eradicate the zombies, believing if they were successful the possessed person's physical body would die - freeing their soul from "limbo".

Another belief of the group was that once a person became "exalted" they could no longer be held responsible for their actions on earth. According to a report by investigators, a friend of Vallow Daybell said: "Becuase Lori was already 'exalted', she would often slam her hand on the counter and state, 'Doesn't count for me!'"

JJ's body wrapped in plastic and Tylee's remains buried in bucket

Tylee and JJ's bodies were found on Chad Daybell's property in Salem, Idaho, on June 9, 2020 (AP)

On June 9, 2020, nine months after the children went missing, the remains of Tylee and JJ were found buried on the grounds of Chad Daybell's property in Salem, Idaho.

During Vallow Daybell's trial, jurors were shown graphic images of the remains uncovered by officers that day as the state in which the bodies had been found was revealed in full, grotesque, detail.

Rexburg Police Department Detective Ray Hermosillo took the witness stand to talk the jury through the grisly discoveries made. Jurors were shown images of the children's remains as they were uncovered, along with autopsy photos.

Describing the search, Hermosillo said: "We started finding burnt flesh, decomoposing bones. The smell was so bad we had to take turns digging.

"Eventually, we uncovered bits and pieces of Tylee, whome we assumed was Tylee, that had been burned.

"There were pieces of bone, charred flesh, just globs of flesh that were falling apart."

Tylee's remains were found in a melted green bucket, which had been buried near fire pit next to a pet cemetery on Daybell's property. She had been dismembered, burned, and her body parts scattered around the grounds.

JJ, meanwhile, was found in a shallow grave on the property. His arms and legs were bound in duct tape, and his head was wrapped in a plastic bag with layers of duct tape wrapped around it.

He was still dressed in his pyjamas and a pull-ups night diaper - which Hermosillo said was soaked from his rotting corpse. JJ's body was found in varying stages of decay, partially covered with a blue children's blanket, on top of which had been placed wood panelling and three white stones.

Who is Lori Vallow Daybell?

Lori Vallow Daybell (right) with daughter Tylee Ryan (left) whose remains were found in Chad Daybell's back garden (Chandler Police Dept)

Lori Vallow Daybell was born Lori Norene Cox in California in 1973. Raised under the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) alongside her brothers, Alex and Adam Cox, she went on to marry her high school boyfriend, Nelson Yanes, at just 19.

The pair divorced not long after, before she married again; this time to William Lagioia at the age of 22, witth whom she had a son, Colby. Born in 1996, Colby was arrested on two counts of sexual assault in Arizona in 2022 - however, his charges were later dropped without prejudice.

In 1998, Vallow Daybwell and Lagioia divorced, with Lori then going on to marry her third husband. She married Joseph Anthony Ryan Jr. and had a daughter, Tylee, in 2002. Ryan ended up divorcing Vallow Daybell in 2005, and was later attacked by her brother Alex, who claimed Ryan had been abusive to her and the children.

Her fourth husband was Charles Vallow, with the pair marrying in 2006. He went on to convert to her faith, becoming a member of the LDS. Youngest son, Joshua "JJ" Vallow, born in 2012, was Vallow's grandnephew, who the pair adopted in 2013.

The pair moved to Hawaii and then to Arizona. It was 2018 when Vallow Daybell met Chad Daybell, leader and frontperson of a doomsday cult. Vallow Daybell quickly became fixated on Daybell and his teachings.

In 2019, Vallow Daybell's husband, Charles Vallow, filed for divorce citing that his wife had threatened to murder him. He also shared concerns about his wife's mental state, telling investigators she had told him she "was a God assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ's second coming in July 2020 and that if [Vallow] got in the way of her mission she would murder him".

Ms Vallow Daybell's fourth husband, Charles Vallow, was shot and killed on July 11, 2019. The fatal shot was fired by Ms Vallow Daybell's brother, Alex Cox, who claimed he was acting in self-defence.

A memorial to Tylee and JJ was put up near where they were found as the trial of their mum got underway (Getty Images)

Cox claimed he went to confront Charles about abusive behaviour toward Ms Vallow Daybell. It was then that he alleged Vallow struck him in the head with a bat, before he shot him in return.

Though police investigated the murder, the case didn't get far before Cox died of a blood clot in his lung at the age of 51 on December 12 that year. Ms Vallow Daybell was charged with conspiracy to commit murder in connection with her fourth husband's death, however, those legal preceedings have been put on hold while the children's murder case is underway.

Ms Vallow Daybell reportedly told some of her friends that her then-husband, Charles, was a "zombie" according to her beliefs. After Charles Vallow's death, Cox reportedly told another follower of Daybell's 'doomsday cult' that he didn't feel bad because he had killed a "zombie".

A sentencing date has not yet been set for Lori Vallow Daybell.

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