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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Rachel Sharp

Buried in pyjamas and burned beyond recognition: Lori Vallow trial hears horror of her children’s murders

Ada County Court

Graphic photos shown at “cult mom” Lori Vallow’s murder trial revealed how her slain son JJ was still wearing his red pyjamas and a nighttime diaper when his remains were found buried in a shallow grave on Chad Daybell’s property in Rexburg, Idaho.

Joshua “JJ” Vallow was last seen alive on 22 September 2019.

The last proof of life showed the little boy, who had autism, sitting on a sofa dressed in a matching set of red pyjamas.

Nine months later – on June 2020 – remains belonging to him and his 16-year-old sister Tylee Ryan were found buried on the grounds of their mother’s new husband’s property.

During Ms Vallow’s murder trial in Boise, Idaho, on Tuesday, shocked jurors were shown harrowing photos of JJ’s body – still dressed in his childlike pyjamas and a pull-up night diaper.

JJ’s 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.

Detective Ray Hermosillo testified that the investigators had honed in on an “area of concern” near a tree on Mr Daybell’s property during the 9 June 2020 search.

Not long after they began digging, he said they were struck by a “strong odour” that he knew was that of a decomposing body.

“They scraped away some more solid around the round object and it began to take the shape of - it looked like the crown of a head protruding from the dirt,” the detective said.

Jurors gasped and JJ’s grandparents sobbed as harrowing images were shown in the courtroom of both the burial site and images taken during the seven-year-old’s autopsy.

JJ Vallow on the day he was last seen alive (Ada County Court)

Tylee’s body, meanwhile, was so badly burned that an autopsy to determine her cause of death was impossible, jurors heard.

The 16-year-old’s remains were found not far from her younger brother’s, close to a fire pit in the pet cemetery on the property.

Tylee had been dismembered, burned and her body parts were dispersed around the grounds.

“We started to uncover just burnt flesh, charred bone, the smell was again of a decomposing body. We had to take turns digging because the smell was so bad. We could only dig for a couple of minutes,” said Det Hermosillo

“We uncovered bits and pieces of Tylee - who we assumed was Tylee,” he said.

“The best I can describe was just blobs of flesh that were falling apart. Once we removed some of that, under them there was another round blobs – I’m sorry, it’s the best I can describe it – just burnt flesh, what appeared to be put in a green bucket. The bucket was melted so it was kind of deformed.”

The detective described Tylee’s remains as a “mass” as he said they then found her “partial human skull”.

At one point, Ms Vallow’s attorneys asked the judge to allow her to be excused from the court while the graphic testimony and photos were shown.

The judge swiftly denied the request.

Ms Vallow is charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy and grand theft in connection with the deaths of JJ and Tylee.

She is also charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the death of Mr Daybell’s first wife Tammy Daybell as well as related financial crimes.

The last photo – and known sighting – of Tylee Ryan (pictured with JJ and Alex Cox at Yellowstone National Park) (FBI)

Prosecutors 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.

As part of their cult beliefs, the couple believed in a “rating system of light and dark” for how they ranked the spirits of the people around them.

Over time, this evolved into the belief that some people – including the children – were “zombies” and the only way to get rid of the zombies was for the human body to be destroyed.

Mr Daybell’s wife of three decades Tammy died suddenly in her sleep on 19 October 2019 – just one month after the children disappeared that September and weeks before Ms Vallow and Mr Daybell married on a beach in Hawaii/

Despite being an otherwise healthy 49-year-old, her family declined an autopsy and Tammy’s death was ruled natural causes. Less than a month later, Mr Daybell and Ms Vallow married on a beach in Hawaii.

Investigators later exhumed her body and carried out an autopsy.

Tammy’s cause of death was revealed for the first time in Ada County Courthouse on Monday – with the prosecutor revealing she died by asphyxiation.

JJ, Tylee and Tammy aren’t the only deaths surrounding the doomsday cult couple.

In July 2019 – two months before the children’s disappearance – Ms Vallow’s fourth husband Charles Vallow was shot dead by Cox.

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

Now, Ms Vallow is also facing charges in Arizona of conspiring with Cox to murder Vallow.

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.

Mr Daybell is also charged with the murders of JJ, Tylee and Tammy and the couple had been due to stand trial together – before the judge severed the two cases last month.

Now, his trial will take place on a later, unspecified date.

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