BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A woman charged with conspiring to kill her two children and her new husband’s late wife says she has an alibi, and that the kids were killed while they were at her late brother’s apartment.
Attorneys for Lori Vallow Daybell made the claim in court documents filed in eastern Idaho last week in the triple murder case. She is also asking for permission to meet with her husband, who is also charged, for "strategy sessions" before the case goes to trial in April.
The bizarre and complex case, which involves allegations of doomsday-focused religious beliefs, accusations of a plot to steal social security funds and the mysterious deaths of the couple’s former spouses, has been marked with twist and turns since Vallow Daybell and her new husband were arrested two years ago. But the "notice of alibi" filed in Idaho’s 7th Judicial Court provided the first glimpse of Vallow Daybell’s planned defense.
Lori Vallow Daybell and her husband Chad Daybell have pleaded not guilty to murder, conspiracy and grand theft charges in connection with the deaths of 7-year-old Joshua "JJ" Vallow, and Tylee Ryan, who was last seen a few days before her 17th birthday in September 2019. They are also charged in connection with the October 2019 death of Chad Daybell’s late wife, Tammy Daybell. They could face the death penalty if convicted.
In the alibi notice, Vallow Daybell’s attorneys said she was in her own apartment in Rexburg when Tylee and JJ died at a nearby apartment where her brother, Alex Cox lived. The attorneys said she was with a couple of friends, "and/or Chad Daybell." Her attorneys have also argued that she was in Hawaii with other friends when Chad Daybell’s previous wife died the next month.
Attorneys for Chad Daybell haven’t offered details about his planned defense, other than saying in court last November that Daybell and Vallow Daybell will have "mutually antagonistic defenses" — a legal term that generally means a jury would have to disbelieve one defendant in order to believe the other.
Idaho law enforcement officers started investigating the couple in November 2019 after extended family members reported that the children were missing. During that period, police said the couple lied about the children’s whereabouts. Their bodies were found buried later on Chad Daybell’s property in rural Idaho.
Chad and Lori Daybell married just two weeks after his previous wife, Tammy Daybell, died unexpectedly. Tammy Daybell’s death was initially reported as due to natural causes, but investigators had her body exhumed after growing suspicious when Chad Daybell quickly remarried.
Vallow Daybell is also separately charged with conspiracy to commit murder in Arizona in connection with the July 2019 death of her previous husband, Charles Vallow. He was shot and killed by Vallow Daybell’s brother, Alex Cox, who claimed it was self-defense.
The Arizona legal proceedings are on hold while the Idaho case is underway.
Court documents suggest that things began to unravel for the family in early 2019, when Lori was still married to Charles Vallow. The couple were estranged, and Vallow had filed for divorce, saying he feared she would kill him and that she had developed cult-like beliefs. He said she claimed to be "a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ’s second coming in July 2020."
The family was living in a Phoenix suburb in July 2019 when Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, shot and killed Vallow. He asserted that the shooting was in self-defense after Vallow came at him with a baseball bat. Police investigated, but the case didn’t go far before Cox died of a blood clot in his lung later that year.
Lori Vallow moved to Idaho with the kids after her late husband’s death, getting an apartment in the small town of Rexburg and spending time with Chad Daybell. The couple had known each other for a while, sometimes participating in podcasts about preparing for the biblical end times for an online organization aimed at members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Alex Cox also moved to Rexburg for a while that fall before returning to Arizona, where he died.
Meanwhile, JJ’s grandparents, Larry and Kay Woodcock of Louisiana, were growing increasingly worried about the kids, whom they weren’t able to reach on the phone. They said Lori Daybell wouldn’t tell them why the boy was always unavailable, and they asked police to check on the family.
Friends of the couple later told law enforcement investigators that the pair believed people could be taken over by dark spirits, and that Vallow Daybell referred to her children as "zombies," a term they used to describe those who were possessed.
Prosecutors say the couple promoted the unusual beliefs to further their alleged plot to kill family members and steal their money, including the kids’ social security benefits.
Vallow Daybell was arrested in Hawaii in February 2020, and Daybell was arrested in June of that year. Since that time, the pair have spoken by phone only once, Vallow Daybell’s attorneys Jim Archibald and John Thomas wrote.
"With settlement proposals, mediation, motions and trial fast approaching, Lori and Chad would like to be able to talk together in person and on the phone about their options," the attorneys wrote. If approved, the conversations won’t be recorded and will not be used as evidence, but the attorneys will attend. They would be considered for settlement purposes only, the attorneys wrote.
Chad Daybell’s attorney filed a motion of his own, asking the judge to push the trial out a year, to April 2024. John Prior said he needs more time to prepare for the complex trial and go over all the evidence — some of which he’s still waiting for prosecutors to hand over.
Judge Steven Boyce of the 7th District will consider the motions at a hearing set for Jan. 19.