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Lori Vallow Daybell trial: Experts depict how her two kids were killed

Lori Vallow Daybell was charged with the murder of two of her children and conspiring to kill her husband's first wife.
Lori Vallow Daybell appears in court in 2020.
Posted at 4:59 PM, Apr 27, 2023

New testimony in Lori Vallow Daybell's weeks-long murder trial revealed the causes of death of her two children, who were both found buried on her husband Chad Daybell's property in June 2020.

During testimony Wednesday, forensic pathologist Dr. Garth Warren said Joshua "J.J." Vallow, Vallow Daybell's 7-year-old son, died from asphyxiation by having a plastic bag over his head and duct tape over his mouth. The child also had scratch marks on his neck and bruising on his arms, according to Scripps News' sister station KIVI, and his body was found intact, wrapped in taped plastic bags.

Warren went on to testify about the death of Tylee Ryan, Vallow Daybell's 16-year-old daughter. Though he said the death was by homicide, Warren wasn't able to pinpoint the exact cause, noting her autopsy was much more complex.

While J.J.'s autopsy took approximately four hours, Warren said Tylee's took nearly a week to complete. Warren said her remains arrived at the coroner's office in three separate bags, each containing charred remains meshed with mud and dirt. Toxicology evidence did not indicate Tylee was alive when her body was burned, and on Thursday, forensic anthropologist Dr. Angie Christensen described Tylee's bones as "inconsistent" from cases of dismemberment. 

Vallow Daybell is charged with murdering her two children and conspiring to kill her husband’s first wife, Tammy Daybell, whose death was also revealed to be asphyxiation. Chad Daybell is separately charged in connection to the three deaths. Both have pleaded not guilty to their charges.

Tylee Ryan was last seen alive at Yellowstone National Park on Sept. 8, 2019, and J.J. Vallow was last seen on Sept. 22, 2019 at school. Nearly nine months later, the children's remains were found on the same day in two different areas on Chad Daybell's Idaho property. 

Their disappearances added to a list of strange deaths in Vallow Daybell's life: Her brother Alexander Cox, claiming self-defense, shot and killed her fourth husband, Charles Vallow, in July 2019. Cox later died of a blood clot that December. In October 2019, Tammy Daybell was shot at in her driveway. She was found dead in her home of "natural causes" 10 days later, though the cause of death was later determined to be asphyxiation.

Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow Daybell married in Hawaii in November 2019, two weeks after Tammy Daybell's death. Later that month, the couple told police conducting a welfare check on J.J. that he had been staying with a family friend for months. Shortly thereafter, police discovered Tylee was also missing.

Lori Vallow Daybell glances at the camera during her hearing in Rexburg, Idaho

Attorneys outline complex plot in trial of slain kids' mom

A woman and her fifth husband are charged with conspiracy, murder and grand theft in connection with the deaths of her two kids and their big sister.


According to the AP, defense attorney Jim Archibald described Vallow Daybell as a loving mother who was particularly interested in religious prophecies involving the end of the world. He said the defendant's beliefs only changed after meeting Chad Daybell, a religious author whose fictional books focused on doomsday scenarios.

Fremont County prosecutor Lindsey Blake told jurors the couple used their religious beliefs to justify their actions "from affair to murder." She noted their belief that some people were "light" or "dark" and that they preached the only way to free an extremely "dark" soul was to kill them. A former friend of Vallow Daybell's testified the defendant told her in September 2019 that both children had become "dark."