A judge has ruled that the case against Chad Daybell, who is facing multiple felony counts in relation to the disappearance and deaths of his wife’s two children, will proceed to trial.
The judge’s decision came after a two-day preliminary hearing during which multiple witnesses, including law enforcement officials and a former close friend of Daybell and his wife Lori Vallow, shared testimony about the investigation and Daybell and Vallow’s peculiar behavior during the months that 7-year-old JJ Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan were missing.
Daybell was arrested on June 9 after the remains of the two children were found in his backyard in Salem, Idaho. Neither child had been seen alive since September 2019. As CrimeOnline previously reported, the court heard a recorded phone call that Vallow made to Daybell on the morning of June 9. The jailhouse call was not entirely audible but it was clear that Vallow and Daybell were speaking, at times cryptically, about the search of Daybell’s property. About an hour after Daybell spoke to his wife on the phone, he drove away from his home, where he had been observing investigators digging in his yard. He was quickly apprehended by police officers who took him into custody.
Neither Vallow or Daybell have been charged with murder, and authorities have not yet released autopsy reports that are expected to reveal the children’s cause of death. Daybell is charged with two felony counts of destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence. Vallow is in custody in neighboring Madison County, also charged with two felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence.
Police discovered the children were missing in late November 2019, over two months after Tylee and JJ were last seen, on separate dates in September. Officers who reported to Vallow’s home in Rexburg, Idaho, for a requested welfare check described conversations with Daybell and Vallow during multiple points of contact on that day. According to the testimony and a body cam recording of Vallow’s conversation with two police officers, both Daybell and Vallow lied to police: Daybell initially told them that he did not know Vallow very well and did not have her phone number, though he later provided the officers with Vallow’s phone number. When speaking to police, Vallow described Daybell as a friend of her brother’s, and claimed that JJ Vallow was with her friend Melanie Gibb in Arizona.
Rexburg police were unable to reach Gibb on that day, though she reportedly called them several days later and said that both Vallow and Daybell asked her to lie and say that JJ Vallow was with her, when he was not. Gibb testified on both days of the preliminary hearing, when it was revealed that Gibb did initially lie to a police officer in Gilbert, Arizona, who contacted her about JJ’s whereabouts in late November. Gibb admitted that she told that officer JJ had been with her but was on his way back to Rexburg.
“I was very perplexed, very troubled, and I did not know what to do,” Gibb said about the false claims she made to the police officer. She also accused Vallow of manipulating her to believe that JJ was in danger.
Still, Gibb was apparently suspicious enough of Vallow and Daybell’s claims that she recorded a phone call with the couple, reportedly in early December. On Monday, the court heard the phone call in its entirety, during which Vallow insisted that JJ was safe and happy.
A previously released arrest affidavit indicates that investigators suspect JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan died on separate dates in September 2019. Investigators later traced a cell phone registered to Lori Vallow’s brother Alex Cox to Daybell’s property on the mornings after each of the children were last seen alive. Cox, who reportedly admitted to fatally shooting Vallow’s former husband Charles Vallow in July 2019, claiming self-defense, died in December of what a medical examiner determined was natural causes connected to an existing heart condition.
Multiple law enforcement officials testified at the preliminary hearing about the condition of the remains found on Daybell’s property. According to the testimony, JJ Vallow’s body was tightly wrapped in multiple layers of plastic and bound in several places with layers of duct tape. The duct tape was reportedly on his mouth and around his wrists, which were tightly bound.
Tylee’s remains were reportedly burned and dismembered.
Chad Daybell’s lawyer John Prior claimed during closing arguments that the state did not meet its minimum burden of probable cause in the evidence presented at the hearing. The judge disagreed, ordering Daybell’s case to proceed to trial. The suspect is due back on court on August 21.
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