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"Doomsday mom" Lori Vallow Daybell sentenced to life in prison — here's what to know about the case

Lori Vallow Daybell sentenced to life in prison
Lori Vallow Daybell sentenced to life in prison 02:15

Lori Vallow Daybell was sentenced to life without parole Monday after an Idaho jury found her guilty in May on all charges for her role in the deaths of her 16-year-old daughter, Tylee Ryan; her 7-year-old adopted son, Joshua "JJ" Vallow; and her husband's first wife, Tammy Daybell. She had pleaded not guilty.

The trial started on Monday, April 10, after a week of jury selection that saw dozens of potential jurors dismissed, many for being too familiar with details of the case or having already formed an opinion. A jury of 10 men and eight women heard the case, and 12 were selected to deliberate. The jury returned the guilty verdict on May 12.

The trial saw some emotional moments, with multiple witnesses moved to tears on the stand and JJ Vallow's grandfather openly weeping in the courtroom as he listened to testimony. Witnesses described finding the bodies of JJ and Tylee as well as Vallow Daybell's religious beliefs.

The defense rested without calling witnesses, and Vallow Daybell did not take the stand in her own defense.

The trial had been delayed in part because Vallow Daybell had been committed, but a judge ruled last year she was mentally competent to stand trial. 

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Who are the people involved?

Lori Vallow Daybell, now 50, had a daughter, Tylee Ryan, from a previous relationship when she married Charles Vallow, her fourth husband, in 2006. In 2012, the two adopted then 2-year-old Joshua, whose biological father was Vallow's nephew — the son of his sister, Kay Woodcock. Joshua, known as JJ, had autism, and by all accounts he and his sister Tylee were close.

Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell, now 54, met in 2018. The Vallows separated the following year, with Charles Vallow filing for divorce. He said in the divorce filing that his wife had threatened to murder him.

Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell Kay Woodcock/Facebook

"She threatened me, murder me, kill me," he told police in a conversation captured on video, "48 Hours" reported.

Charles Vallow was killed in 2019, shot in an altercation with Vallow Daybell's brother, Alex Cox, in Arizona, where the Vallow family — including JJ and Tylee — and Cox were living at the time. Soon after, Vallow Daybell and her children moved to Idaho.

Later that year, Tammy Daybell, the wife of Chad Daybell and the mother of his five children, died at the Daybell's home in Idaho of what officials initially said were natural causes but later said was suspicious. 

Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow married in Hawaii two weeks later, on Nov. 5, 2019.

What happened to Tylee Ryan and JJ Vallow?

The last time anyone saw Tylee Ryan was in September 2019, when the family took a trip to Yellowstone National Park. JJ Vallow's biological grandparents, Kay and Larry Woodcock, said that the last time they spoke to the 7-year-old was in August.

Kay Woodcock asked police in Rexburg, Idaho, to check on JJ in November — but Vallow Daybell told police he was in Arizona with a family friend. The friend, Melanie Gibb, told police she had not seen JJ for months.

By December, police and the FBI were searching for 16-year-old Tylee and 7-year-old JJ. The hunt continued even as police arrested Vallow Daybell in Hawaii on two felony counts related to the missing children and three other misdemeanors. She was extradited to Idaho.

The search continued into 2020, when police executed a search warrant on Daybell's property in Rexburg, Idaho. There, they found human remains, later identified as JJ and Tylee — his, duct-taped and in red pajamas, and hers, badly burned.

Tylee Ryan, JJ Vallow and Lori Vallow.
Tylee Ryan, JJ Vallow and Lori Vallow. Tylee Ryan/Instagram

What are Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell charged with?

Both Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell are charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the children's deaths. Vallow Daybell was also found guilty of grand theft, a felony, allegedly for collecting Social Security benefits on behalf of her children, including those Tylee was receiving because of her father's death.

While Daybell could face the death penalty, the judge ruled Vallow Daybell would not face capital punishment. She could face as much as life in prison. 

Vallow Daybell was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Tammy Daybell. 

Both pleaded not guilty to all charges.

In separate cases in Arizona, she is charged with conspiring to murder her late husband, Charles Vallow, and Brandon Boudreaux, her niece's ex-husband. Boudreaux testified against her in her Idaho trial.

Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell

What did the prosecution and defense say?

The prosecution argued that Vallow Daybell wanted, as Fremont County Prosecuting Attorney Lindsey Blake said in her opening statement, "money, power and sex," and wouldn't let anything stand in her way. Blake also argued that Vallow Daybell and her husband used their religious beliefs to try to persuade those around them not to question their actions and even to justify murder.

Vallow Daybell's defense argued that jurors must focus on what evidence shows Vallow Daybell did, not what her husband or brother may have done. Defense attorney John Archibald told jurors that people get to choose their religious beliefs, and that Vallow Daybell was with other people in her apartment when JJ and Tylee were murdered, and in Hawaii when Tammy Daybell died. 

Why isn't Chad Daybell on trial?

Both Vallow Daybell's and Daybell's lawyers asked the court to separate the cases, originally set to go to trial in January. Daybell waived his right to a speedy trial, and a judge granted the request, so his will happen at a later date. It is scheduled for April 1, 2024.

Why is Lori Vallow Daybell called the "doomsday mom" and how does religion play a part in the case?

Both Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon church. Daybell owned a religious publishing company, and his own writing focused on fringe beliefs, including what he said were his own near-death experiences and the end times.

Vallow Daybell, friends said, was increasingly convinced that doomsday is around the corner. As part of that belief, she said people's bodies — including, JJ, Tylee and Charles Vallow — were possessed by evil spirits, turning them into "zombies," former friend April Raymond told "48 Hours." 

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"Part of her mission on Earth was to eliminate the darkness, the demonic — the evil," Raymond said.

Daybell had a religious-focused podcast, on which Vallow Daybell appeared. The two also held gatherings of people who shared their increasingly fervent beliefs: "48 Hours" reported Vallow Daybell believed she was chosen to lead the 144,000 people who would survive the end times. Her late husband told police she believed she was "a resurrected being — a god," "48 Hours" reported. 

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