‘Cult Mom’ Lori Vallow trial: Here’s what to know as court case begins

Kids Killed Doomsday Plot Trial
This courtroom sketch, from left, depicts Madison County prosecutor Rob Wood, Lori Vallow Daybell and defense attorney Jim Archibald during opening statements of Vallow Daybell’s murder trial in Boise, Idaho, Monday, April 10, 2023. Prosecutors have charged Vallow Daybell and her husband, Chad Daybell, with multiple counts of conspiracy, murder and grand theft in connection with the deaths of Vallow Daybell’s two children: Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan. Both are also charged in connection with the death of Chad Daybell’s previous wife, Tammy Daybell. (Lisa C. Cheney via AP)

‘Cult Mom’ Lori Vallow trial: Here’s what to know as court case begins

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Opening statements on Monday launched the trial of Idaho mother Lori Vallow Daybell, a “cult” follower with doomsday-related beliefs who is accused of killing her children and her husband’s ex-wife.

Vallow Daybell is charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and grand theft in connection to the deaths of her children, Joshua Vallow and Tylee Ryan, along with Tammy Daybell, who is the ex-wife of Lori Vallow Daybell’s husband, Chad Daybell.


Prosecutors believe that Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell used their doomsday-focused beliefs as a motive to kill both the children and Tammy Daybell to collect life insurance money, as well as the children’s Social Security and survivor benefits.

Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell ran a prayer group that believed they could drive out evil spirits from people and received revelations “from beyond the spiritual veil,” according to police interviews.

A close friend told investigators that Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell believed the children were possessed by evil spirits and that the parents believed if they prayed, a possessed person would physically die, freeing their trapped souls from “limbo.”

Timeline of events


Lori Vallow Daybell’s children disappeared in September 2019, sparking a monthslong search. Ryan was last seen on Sept. 8, when the children and Lori Vallow Daybell visited Yellowstone National Park, officials said.

In October, Tammy Daybell, 49, died unexpectedly. Medical examiners initially ruled her death as a result of natural causes. Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell got married two weeks later.

Family members reported that Lori Vallow Daybell’s children were missing a month later. On Nov. 26, the Rexburg Police Department conducted a welfare check for Joshua Vallow at the request of his grandparents, as they had not seen the boy in months.

In the months before and after the children were reported missing, Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell offered conflicting reports of their children’s whereabouts, with investigators eventually determining that they lied on multiple occasions.

After suspicions rose over Joshua Vallow and Tylee Ryan’s whereabouts, the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office exhumed Tammy Daybell’s body in December, but the details of the autopsy were not released.

On Dec. 20, the Rexburg Police Department declared that Joshua Vallow and Ryan were missing, believing their deaths were connected to Tammy Daybell’s.


Lori Vallow Daybell was charged in January 2020 with two felony counts of desertion and nonsupport of dependent children after authorities found her in Hawaii and she failed to “physically produce her children.” She began serving jail time in Hawaii after waiving her extradition to Idaho.

In June, authorities searched Chad Daybell’s property and found human remains. The remains were then identified as Joshua Vallow and Ryan. Chad Daybell was taken into custody and charged with two felony charges of concealment, distribution, or alteration of evidence. Lori Vallow Daybell was given the same charges.


Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell were indicted on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy, and grand theft related to the deaths of Joshua Vallow and Ryan in May 2021.

In June, the trials were delayed. Lori Vallow Daybell was committed to Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare, and a psychologist said she was unfit to stand trial. A judge agreed that she could not assist in her defense.

Judge Steven Boyce ruled in October that the trial would be moved over 200 miles out of Fremont County, Idaho, to Boise, Idaho.


On April 19, Lori Vallow Daybell was arraigned on murder charges after being released from a Department of Health and Welfare facility and deemed fit for trial.

In August, her attorneys filed a motion to ban cameras from the courtroom, with support from the prosecutors. Several media outlets filed a motion in opposition to the ban, but Boyce ruled that all cameras would be banned from future court hearings and the trial.

Lori Vallow Daybell’s case was put on hold again due to competency troubles in October. Her trial date was pushed from the scheduled January start date to April 3, 2023.


Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell’s trials were severed on March 2 after new DNA evidence was submitted. Boyce removed the death penalty from consideration since there was a vast amount of evidence that the team did not have time to go through before the trial.

Lori Vallow Daybell’s trial started on April 3 with jury selection, eventually leading to 12 jurors and six alternates.


During opening statements on Monday, prosecutors announced the results of Tammy Daybell’s autopsy. Medical examiners found that the cause of death was asphyxiation. Her death is now being treated as a homicide.

Fremont County Prosecutor Lindsey Blake detailed the children’s remains on Monday, saying Ryan’s remains were a mass of tissue and bone, and Joshua Vallow’s body was found duct-taped in garbage bags.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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