In a case that included bizarre claims that her son and daughter were zombies and that she was a goddess sent to bring about the Biblical apocalypse, Idaho mother Lori Vallow Daybell was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murders of her two youngest children and a romantic rival.
In May, Vallow Daybell was found guilty of conspiring to kill Tammy Daybell, her fifth husband’s previous wife, as well as killing her two youngest children, 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow and 16-year-old Tylee Ryan. According to the judge, Vallow Daybell will serve three consecutive life sentences.
The wife’s husband, Chad Daybell, is slated to stand trial for the same crime. In addition, Vallow Daybell is accused of planning with her brother to murder her fourth husband, Charles Vallow, as well as her niece’s ex-husband in two separate instances in Arizona. Although Charles Vallow was shot and died in 2019, her niece’s ex managed to survive a subsequent attempt.
Judge Steven W. Boyce declared at the Fremont County Courthouse in St. Anthony, Idaho, that he would never be able to shake the images of the murdered children out of his head because the search for the missing children, the discovery of their bodies, and the evidence photos shown in court traumatised law enforcement and jurors.
Boyce commented that a parent killing their own children “is really the most shocking thing I can imagine.”
The court criticised Vallow Daybell for “going down a bizarre religious rabbit hole, and clearly you are still down there,” in his defence of the killings.
“I don’t think to this day you have any remorse for the effort and heartache you caused,” he said.
Colby Ryan, the lone survivor of Vallow Daybell, was among the victims’ witnesses who testified before Boyce.
“Tylee will never have the opportunity to become a mother, wife or have the career she was destined to have. JJ will never be able to grow and spread his light with the world the way he did,” Ryan wrote in a statement read by prosecuting attorney Rob Wood. “My siblings and father deserve so much more than this. I want them to be remembered for who they were, not just a spectacle.”
Ryan also wrote about his own grief, “I’ve lost the opportunity to share life with the people I love the most. I have lost my sister, father, brother and my mother,” he wrote. “I pray for healing for everyone involved, including those who took the lives of everyone we loved.”
Samantha Gwilliam, Tammy Daybell’s sister, testified in court that the murder plot and her sister’s passing caused a significant divide in the family.
“Why? Why plan something so heinous? You are not exalted beings, and your behavior makes you ineligible to be one,” Gwilliam said, referring to the unusual religious claims. “Because of the choices you made, my family lost a beloved mother, sister and daughter.”
According to Gwilliam, Tammy Daybell’s mother watched the murder trial in her final months while battling illness. In addition, the family has come under pressure from the media and other parties due to “all of the salacious scandal you stirred up,” Gwilliam said to Vallow Daybell as she sat between her defence lawyers.
“I miss my sister every day. I will grieve her, and the loss of my mother, every single day of my life,” Gwilliam said. “As for you, I choose to forget you and as I leave the courtroom here today, I choose to never think of you again.”
Before imposing the punishment, Boyce also heard from Vallow Daybell. She cited scripture to support her argument that people shouldn’t judge one another. Despite knowing they would be reunited in eternity, she acknowledged that she, too, regretted the loss of Tammy Daybell and her children.
She asserted that she frequently receives visits from the ghosts of her deceased children as well as Tammy Daybell, her “eternal friend,” and she implied that the three weren’t actually murdered.
“Jesus Christ knows that no one was murdered in this case,” she said. “Accidental deaths happen. Suicides happen. Fatal side effects from medication happen.”
Wood cited the three murders in six weeks in Idaho as well as the two cases from Arizona.
“A defendant who is willing to murder her own children is willing to murder anyone,” Wood said. “Society can only be protected from this defendant by a sentence of life in prison without parole.”
Vallow Daybell was committed more than once so she might receive treatment and become mentally fit for court hearings. Wood, though, asserted that there is no proof that her “alleged mental illness”—which, according to documents cited in court, includes delusional condition with grandiose features—had any bearing on her acts.
According to multiple witnesses who testified that she lied to them about the deaths, Wood claimed that “the evidence is overwhelming that she did know right from wrong.”
Charles Vallow was shot and killed at a suburban Phoenix home in July 2019 by Vallow Daybell’s brother, Alex Cox. Cox claimed to have acted in self-defense to police. He was never put on trial and later passed away from what the police judged to be natural causes.
Chad Daybell, a self-published author of doomsday-focused fiction that was largely based on Mormon doctrine, was already dating Vallow Daybell. To be nearer to him, she relocated to Idaho with her children and brother.
The youngsters were last observed in September of this year. A month later, when a frightened member of the extended family called the police, they were found gone. The following summer, Chad Daybell’s yard contained their bodies that had been buried there.
Tylee seemed to have been stabbed, according to the specialists who testified during the trial, and her body was burned before being interred in a pet cemetery, Wood said.
Wood stated that JJ was asphyxiated by the tape and plastic covering his head, and that his final thoughts must have “been filled with fear and betrayal.”
Wood claimed that Tammy Daybell’s body had bruises, indicating that she may have resisted while being suffocated in her bed.
In November 2019, just two weeks after Daybell’s first wife Tammy was killed, he wed Lori Vallow. Tammy Daybell was initially believed to have passed away naturally, but an examination later revealed otherwise, according to the authorities.
Vallow Daybell was a loving, protective mother whose life took a drastic turn when she met Chad Daybell and fell for his “weird” end-of-the-world religious views, according to defence counsel Jim Archibald’s case during the trial. He asserted that Daybell and Alex Cox, Vallow Daybell’s brother, were to blame for the fatalities.
According to Archibald, Daybell said she was a “sexual goddess” and that they had been married multiple times in their past incarnations. She was tasked with attracting 144,000 disciples so that Jesus might come and redeem the world.
Melanie Gibb, a former friend of Vallow Daybell, stated during the trial that Vallow Daybell thought JJ and Tylee had been transformed into “zombies” by evil spirits.