Friend of slain kids’ mom describes ‘zombie’ claims to jury

Apr 14, 2023, 2:11 PM

This courtroom sketch, from left, depicts Madison County prosecutor Rob Wood, Lori Vallow Daybell a...

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)

(Lisa C. Cheney via AP)

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A mom accused of killing her two youngest children and a romantic rival described some people as possessed or “zombies,” four of whom were later killed or shot at, the woman’s former friend told jurors.

Melanie Gibb testified Thursday in the Idaho trial of Lori Vallow Daybell, telling jurors that the two became friends at a church event in 2018 but that Vallow Daybell’s spiritual beliefs soon veered away from what they had been taught at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Prosecutors say Vallow Daybell and her fifth husband, Chad Daybell, used those religious beliefs to justify the deaths of anyone who stood in the way of their romantic relationship. Both are charged with murder, conspiracy and grand theft charges in the deaths of 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan, who was last seen a few days before her 17th birthday. They face the same charges in connection with the death of Daybell’s late wife, Tammy Daybell.

Both have pleaded not guilty. Chad Daybell is expected to stand trial several months from now, but prosecutors began presenting their case against Vallow Daybell on Monday.

Gibb told jurors that Vallow Daybell claimed some people were people Vallow Daybell labeled as “dark” included her fourth husband, Charles Vallow, who was shot and killed by Vallow Daybell’s brother in July 2019; her two youngest children, who were missing for roughly eight months before their bodies were found buried in Chad Daybell’s yard in 2020; and Brandon Boudreax, who was shot at by an unknown assailant shortly after he divorced Vallow Daybell’s niece in 2019.

Gibb’s testimony was the first time jurors heard about the death of Vallow Daybell’s fourth husband. The couple was estranged when Charles Vallow was shot and killed outside his Phoenix, Arizona-area home by Vallow Daybell’s brother, Alex Cox. Cox claimed the shooting was self-defense and was never charged in connection with the death. He later died of what was determined to be natural causes in December 2019.

Authorities in Arizona, however, have indicted Vallow Daybell with conspiring to kill Charles Vallow with Cox’s help. The Idaho prosecutors also say Cox had a hand in the eastern Idaho deaths, conspiring with Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell to kill the kids and Daybell’s previous wife.

Vallow Daybell has not yet entered a plea in the Arizona case.

JJ had autism, and once Charles Vallow was dead, Vallow Daybell had a hard time taking care of him and having enough time with Chad Daybell, Gibb said. Vallow Daybell and the two kids moved to Rexburg, Idaho, after Charles Vallow’s death — closer to the town where Chad Daybell lived with his family — and that’s when Vallow Daybell began claiming JJ was possessed, Gibb said.

“She said he would say things like, ‘I love Satan’ and climb up on the cabinets and refrigerator,” Gibb said.

Tylee wasn’t home at the time, and Gibbs said Vallow Daybell claimed to have sent the teen to live in a college dorm with some friends. Both children were last seen alive in September 2019, prosecutors said.

Meanwhile, Chad Daybell’s then-wife, Tammy Daybell, died in October 2019. Her death was originally reported as natural causes, but prosecutors became suspicious after Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell married just two weeks later. Prosecutors said Tammy Daybell’s body was exhumed and that an autopsy showed she died from asphyxiation.

Gibb told jurors that Chad Daybell called her in November of 2019, warning her not to answer her phone if Rexburg police called because Vallow Daybell had told investigators JJ was visiting Gibb in Arizona.

Gibb confronted Vallow Daybell about the boy’s whereabouts in a recorded phone call a month later. Prosecutors played the recording for the jury.

“Your salvation is in trouble,” Gibb tells Vallow Daybell in the call. “I believe you have been deceived by Satan. He has tricked you. Tammy dies, and then your husband died, and then he’s missing. It doesn’t sound like God’s plan to me. In my gut, it feels weird.”

“You know me, Mel,” Lori Vallow replies. “This doesn’t sound like you. This sounds like you’re being influenced by somebody dark.”

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Friend of slain kids’ mom describes ‘zombie’ claims to jury