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Prosecution, defense rest in Lori Vallow Daybell murder trial

Lori Vallow Daybell is facing murder charges in the deaths of her two youngest children, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan.
Posted at 12:53 PM, May 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-10 12:53:00-04

Prosecutors rested their case against Lori Vallow Daybell on Tuesday afternoon after calling 59 witnesses over five weeks. Prosecutors began the day on Tuesday by focusing on Lori Vallow Daybell's relationship with her fifth husband, Chad Daybell, and the "James and Elena" story he wrote.

Lori is charged with murder in the deaths of her two youngest children, JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan, and conspiracy in the death of Chad's first wife, Tammy Daybell. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Prosecutors recalled FBI investigator Nicole Heideman to the stand, who testified to portions of the "James and Elena" story written by Chad that were found while reviewing cell phone data and iCloud accounts.

Sketch by Lisa Cheney

Heideman testified that in the story, the characters James and Raphael represent Chad, while Elena and Lilli represent Lori. She testified that there are real-life correlations between the characters in the story and Chad and Lori, from the onset of the story which begins on Oct. 26, 2018, with multiple mentions of a conference in St. George, Utah.

Chad was a speaker at the conference, and Heideman testified that a group photo of Lori, Chad, Melanie Gibb and Zulema Pastenes was shared in a group text.

While Chad and Lori attended a conference in Arizona Nov. 16-17, 2018, the story reflected the characters doing the same. Heideman testified that records showed the characters preparing a conference, visiting a temple and staying at a friend's house.

In the story, Elena visits James for the first time in Idaho in April 2019. Heideman testified that flight records and bank statements indicate Lori did the same. Flight records also indicate Chad traveled to Arizona to participate in a podcast posted in January 2019, similar to a portion of the story where James travels to Arizona to participate in a podcast.

Heideman also testified to text messages between Chad and Lori.

Lori Vallow Daybell appears in court in 2020.

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August 9, 2019, texts between Chad and Lori:
• Chad: He kissed her deeply as her breathing slowed…another powerful round of pleasurable bonding.
• Lori: That is pretty incredible [three fire emojis], the fire is definitely burning, the memories [three heart emojis], you have to stop or I might explode.
• Lori: the intensity of each encounter in my mind, one greater than the last, oh my, [fire emoji], I never loved you more, [heart emoji kiss emoji]
• Lori: I completely agree we were definitely in new territory in ur bedroom
• Chad: Elena's magic hand has gripped the storm barely able to breathe as intense waves wash over them
• Lori: yes she did.
• Chad: I love u Elena, what wonderful chemistry we share.
• Lori: I love you more that's so hot, I just need u more than ever, [two heart emojis]
• Chad: You are amazing, please save that segment I want to read it with you naked and relive it all.

The final witness for the prosecution was Nicholas Edwards, the lead investigator with the Idaho Attorney General's office who compiled a timeline of the entire case. Edwards testified that he became involved in the investigation into Tammy Daybell's death in April of 2020, when simultaneous investigations into Charles Vallow's death and the disappearances of JJ and Tylee were active.

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

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A portion of the timeline shown to the jurors focused on Tammy's death and the days leading up to it. On Oct. 4-5, 2019, Tammy took a trip to Utah to visit her parents at Chad's urging. On Oct. 3 and 4, Chad sent texts to Lori expressing excitement over an upcoming date and saying he was dreaming of caressing her in bed.

On Oct. 9, Tammy was targeted in an attempted shooting.

Edwards testified that data showed an account linked to Alex Cox searched for information about bullet trajectories, how to clean an AR and what a Grendel round might do to the car the Daybells owned on Oct. 9.

Tammy died on Oct. 19 and her funeral was held on Oct. 21. 

Edwards testified to texts sent between Chad and Lori on Oct. 20:
• Lori: I am missing u more, I need u desperately, I can't wait, need u to hold me tight that would be great, what do u think about coming here
• Chad: Their apt is haunted and we cant clear the place, need to be here to sort financial stuff and I truly need ur help, come home thurs and we can spend the night together, I seriously want u to look for a condo while ur there for us to return to at first of month. I want to full stem on lilli workout plan, tighten abs, this is good for both of us.
• Lori: not soon enough, want you to clear my mind. I feel lovesick, it's so consuming.
• Chad: I know exactly how u feel, I am feeling sad but it isn't for the reason everyone thinks.

A memorial for Tylee Ryan, 17, and Joshua

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Police officially confirmed the bodies to be the missing siblings.


The prosecution rested its case.

The defense team then asked the judge to review the evidence in the case to determine if there is enough evidence to support the charges against Lori before announcing whether they will present a case to the jury. Lori's attorneys also asked for time to confer with their client privately to discuss her right to proceed.

The judge ordered everyone to exit the courtroom to allow the attorneys to talk to Lori, and said he would reserve ruling on the defense's motion.

When the court returned to session, Lori's defense attorneys said they felt that the state had failed to prove its case and rested as well. Lori said she had decided not to testify in her own defense.

The jury was instructed to return for closing arguments on Thursday morning.

This story was originally published by Lauren Silver and Court TV staff on courttv.com.