Idaho mother Lori Vallow Daybell was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole after her conviction earlier this year in the murders of two of her children and for conspiring in the murder of her husband’s first wife.
Vallow Daybell received a sentence of life in prison for the murders of each of her children, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old Joshua “JJ” Vallow, as well as for the conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Tammy Daybell, the first wife of her husband, Chad Daybell. Those sentences will be served consecutively, the judge ruled, with two additional life sentences and a sentence of 10 years for grand theft to be served concurrently.
A jury in May found her guilty on all charges, including two counts of first-degree murder and three counts of conspiracy in the deaths of the children and Tammy Daybell, whose loved ones gave emotional testimony Monday underscoring the lasting toll of Vallow Daybell’s crimes.
“Tylee and JJ brought so much light into this world,” Colby Ryan, Tylee and JJ’s older brother, said in a victim impact statement read by prosecutors Monday.
“Tylee will never have an opportunity to become a mother, wife, or have the career she was destined to have. She’ll never be able to have the life she deserved,” Ryan wrote. “JJ will never be able to grow and spread his light with this world the way he did. He will never have a chance to grow up.”
“I want them to be remembered for who they were,” he added, “and not to be just a spectacle or a headline to the world.”
In determining the sentence, Judge Steven W. Boyce said he weighed the defendant’s lack of a prior criminal record – the “single most mitigating factor” in the case, he said – but noted she now stood convicted of “the most serious charges” and had shown no remorse.
“Murder is the most serious offense, and the most unimaginable type of murder is to have a mother murdering her own children, and that’s exactly what you did,” he said, addressing Vallow Daybell. “You were involved in and guilty of conspiring to murder … Tammy Daybell, who had children of her own. And despite the jury convicting you with overwhelming evidence, you still sit here before the court today and said you didn’t do it.”
Vallow Daybell on Monday denied having killed her children and cited religious texts and beliefs.
She said she had spoken to Jesus, her children and her husband’s wife after their deaths and said they were “happy and extremely busy” in heaven.
Lori Vallow Daybell looks at notes during her sentencing hearing at the Fremont County Courthouse in St. Anthony, Idaho, on Monday, July 31, 2023.
“Jesus Christ knows that no one was murdered in this case,” Vallow Daybell said. “Accidental deaths happen, suicides happen, fatal side effects from medications happen.”
In his ruling, the judge said, “I don’t believe that any God in any religion would want to have this happen.”
The children were last seen in September 2019, and Tammy Daybell died the following month; Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell were married weeks later. In June 2020, law enforcement authorities discovered the remains of Tylee and JJ in Daybell’s backyard in Fremont County.
He is to be tried separately in April 2024 on two felony counts of conspiracy to commit destruction; alteration or concealment of evidence; and two felony counts of destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence. He has pleaded not guilty.
“I miss my sister every day. I will grieve her … for the rest of my life. I will always remember that,” Samantha Gwilliam, Tammy Daybell’s sister, said during her own victim impact statement at the Fremont County Courthouse. “As for you, I choose to forget you. And as I leave this courtroom today, I choose to never think of you again,” Gwilliam said, addressing Vallow Daybell.
Lori Vallow Daybell's children, Joshua Vallow, 7, and his sister, Tylee Ryan, 16, went missing in September 2019, according to the Rexburg Police Department.
The May 2021 indictment against the couple said they “did endorse and espouse religious beliefs for the purposes of” justifying or encouraging the killings of Tammy Daybell and the children. At trial, prosecutors portrayed the couple as having apocalyptic religious beliefs, believing themselves religious figures who had a system of rating people as “light” or “dark,” East Idaho News reported.
Boyce said he believed the state’s case that Vallow Daybell murdered her children to “remove them as obstacles and to profit financially,” calling it “the most evil and destructive path possible.” And she justified their killings “by going down a bizarre, religious rabbit hole,” Boyce said. “And clearly you are still down there.”
‘What did Lori deprive the world of?’
Vallow Daybell pleaded not guilty, and while her attorney Jim Archibald acknowledged his client’s interest in religion during the trial – particularly the “end of times” – he said she was a “kind and loving mother.”
“Some people could care less about biblical prophecies; some people care a lot about it. Thankfully in this country we get the freedom to choose,” Archibald said in his own opening statement, according to East Idaho News.
Vallow Daybell was also convicted of grand theft for, according to the indictment, collecting Social Security benefits on behalf of her children after their deaths. Prosecutors said she didn’t report her children missing in order to keep collecting the money, East Idaho News reported.
In the wake of the verdict, Vallow Daybell’s attorneys filed a motion for a new trial, court records show. The state objected, and the court ultimately denied the motion.
The case – which was featured in a true crime Netflix documentary – began unfolding in late November 2019, when relatives asked police in Rexburg, Idaho, to do a welfare check on JJ because they hadn’t talked to him recently. Police didn’t locate him at the family’s house but were told by Vallow Daybell and Daybell he was staying with a family friend in Arizona, according to authorities.
When police returned the next day to serve a search warrant, Vallow and Daybell were gone. They were found months later in Hawaii, in January 2020, while the search for the missing children was unfolding back home.
By that time, Tylee and JJ had been dead for months, according to prosecutors. Madison County prosecutor Rob Wood said Monday that Tylee was believed to have been killed between September 8 and 9, 2019, and JJ between September 22 or 23.
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Watch as verdict is read in child murder trial of Idaho mother
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Kay Woodcock, JJ’s grandmother, testified that her regular phone calls with her grandson dropped off after the death of Vallow Daybell’s ex-husband, Charles Vallow, East Idaho News reported.
The last conversation she had with JJ was on August 10, 2019, Woodcock said, when she spoke to him during a short call that lasted less than a minute. She attempted over the next few months to contact her grandson, but never got any response from Vallow Daybell, she said.
Kay and Larry Woodcock, the grandparents of JJ Vallow, embrace after Kay Woodcock's statement Monday.
During the trial, a lot of information was shared about JJ’s death, Woodcock testified Monday. “Today, I want to share how he lived,” she said, recounting how her grandchild, who was born 10 weeks prematurely, triumphed in his seven years, reading at a middle school level by the time he was 4 years old.
“I continually wonder what he would have become. What type of man would he be? What did Lori deprive the world of?”
Vallow Daybell’s ex-husband was seen in body camera footage released by Arizona police telling authorities as early as January 2019 that he could not get in touch with the children. Their marriage had rapidly deteriorated, he said, adding, “she thinks she’s a resurrected being and a god.”
Correction: A previous version of this story gave the wrong age for Tylee Ryan. She was 16 at the time of her death.
CNN’s Camila Bernal, Sarah Moon, Eric Levenson, Emma Tucker, Ashley R. Williams and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.
Lori Vallow Daybell sentenced to life in prison for murders of her 2 children and conspiring in the murder of her husband's first wife | CNN? ›
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