Lori Vallow Daybell: A Timeline Of The Murder Case And Trial

In 2019, the nation was on the hunt for Lori Vallow Daybell's missing children: 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old Joshua "J.J." Vallow. People were drawn to the case for a few reasons. There were a series of mysterious deaths surrounding the family during a short span, and Lori was unwilling to disclose her children's location. Not immediately clear was the guilt of her new husband, doomsday author Chad Daybell.

Chad and Lori's story began with religious extremism and prophecies. Chad sold books about the end-of-times, apocalyptic scenarios, and near-death experiences, all with a religious bent. But Chad's religion became his own, and he soon ascribed to himself supernatural powers. He claimed he could look into the future and once predicted that the end of the world would come on July 22, 2020, per Court TV. He also claimed the ability to look into the souls of others and determine whether they possessed a "light" or "dark spirit." Those possessed by a "dark spirit" were no longer themselves and were essentially zombies, as reported by the East Idaho News.

At first glance, the ideas seemed kooky and maybe even harmless, but Chad started to see "dark" spirits in Lori's own family, and those few became unwitting targets. Charles Vallow, Lori's ex-husband, and Tammy Daybell, Chad's wife — along with J.J. and Tylee, all died in 2019. Chad and Lori were eventually indicted for their murders, and, as of 2023, one has been convicted. A timeline of these events follows, beginning in 2014.

2014: Chad Daybell's religious views become eccentric

Chad Daybell began his writing career authoring Mormon-infused literature through the publishing company he founded with his wife in 2004, Spring Creek Book Company, per the East Idaho News. According to his personal website, Daybell found his spiritual side after two near-death experiences when he was young. One of those incidents purportedly gave him a permanent connection to the "spirit world," which he said gave him an ability to communicate with heaven (via Inside Edition). He wrote about these experiences in his own books, and it became Spring Creek's mission to publish stories of near-death experiences from other writers connected with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

According to the East Idaho News, one of those authors, Suzanne Freeman, said Daybell began shifting his ideology in 2014. His ideas diverged from mainstream Latter-day teachings, and he began to focus heavily on end-of-times preparedness. That year, he said he received a message from "the Spirit" to move his family from Utah to Idaho. However, as reported by Inside Edition, one author he met on an end-of-times online forum, Julia Rowe (whose first four books were published by Daybell, per KTVB), said Daybell's views began changing even further after experiencing an out-of-body experience in his new Rexburg, Idaho, home.

Daybell's union with Lori Vallow presented an even further shift in his religious ideas and was considered too extreme for old friends Freeman and Rowe.

2018: Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow meet

Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell were bound to meet. According to Vallow's former friend, Melanie Gibb, Vallow and Daybell first met at a Utah conference where he was selling his books (via the East Idaho News). Wherever it was, however, their connection was apparently immediate and electric.

Vallow had been a fan of Daybell's for at least a year and was fixated on death and the afterlife, per NBC News. So, as reported by the East Idaho News, when Daybell looked into Vallow's eyes immediately upon meeting and said they had been married various times in their past lives, there was no turning back. Vallow's nephew said their union was a perfect storm (via NBC News).

Their doomsday views fused together and moved away from Latter-day teachings, to the point where they kept quiet so they wouldn't get excommunicated, per coverage from the East Idaho News. They knew the exact number of lives they had lived in the past, and they believed they were soulmates — or sealed, as it was called in their church.

Of course, they were already married to other people, but Vallow and Daybell thought that would be taken care of. In other words, they expected that fate would conveniently cause their spouses to die in car crashes.

January 2019 - March 2019: Lori disappears for 58 days

After having met Chad Daybell, Lori Vallow's family noticed her changing significantly. Lori told her husband, Charles Vallow, that she was preparing for Jesus Christ's second coming, which she said would happen in July 2020, and warned Charles not to get in her way. Specifically, she believed she and Chad were part of the 144,000 people specially chosen to prepare for the task, as detailed in the "Book of Revelation," according to court documents (via Fox 10 Phoenix).

In January of 2019, Lori's husband begged her to visit a mental health facility, per the East Idaho News. She did but was quickly released despite claiming to be a "translated being." According to Fox 10 Phoenix, things then took a turn soon after, when Lori suddenly disappeared after liquidating hers and Charles' bank accounts, leaving Charles with nearly nothing. According to The New York Times, Lori had left her home for Hawaii, together with Daybell.

It was around this time that Charles filed for divorce, requesting sole custody of their adopted son, J.J., and received an order of protection. Charles later withdrew the petition for divorce but because of Lori's disappearance, he moved away from Arizona to Texas in order to protect J.J., per Fox 10 Phoenix.

July 2019: Charles Vallow is killed by Lori's brother

Sadly, Charles Vallow had reason to fear for his life. But it wasn't Chad or Lori who killed him; the culprit was Lori's brother, Alex Cox. But as Cox told police, he shot his former brother-in-law in self-defense. Charles and Lori were separated and living in different homes, and on July 11, Charles went to Lori's home to pick up J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan. The former couple got into a heated exchange, and Alex intervened in order to de-escalate the situation, according to a police statement (via Fox 10 Phoenix).

Cox described Charles as little more than nonsensically enraged and said that Charles' daughter, Tylee, came into the room with a baseball bat to defend her mother, per the East Idaho News. Charles then took the bat and threatened Alex with it. The kids were ushered into a car, and reports differ as to whether Lori was inside the home when Charles was shot (via Fox 10 Phoenix). Cox then performed CPR and called the police.

The report raised a few eyebrows, specifically that of Charles' family. His son from another marriage, for example, told Fox 10 Phoenix's Justin Lum that the hot-tempered behavior described didn't fit Charles' demeanor. And Charles' sister, Kay Woodcock, had a more blunt explanation of his death: She said it was "murder" (via the East Idaho News).

September 2019: J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan are last seen

September 2019 brought the lost documented photos of Lori Vallow's younger children, Tylee Ryan and Joshua "J.J." Vallow. The last time the kids were seen together, and the last anyone saw Tylee, was on September 8 at Yellowstone National Park, according to E! News and the East Idaho News. Photos released by the FBI showed a happy family outing, which included Lori's brother, Alex, with smiles coming from them all. A few weeks later, J.J. went to school for the last time.

On September 23, Lori informed his elementary school that J.J. would no longer attend, and he would start homeschooling. September 24 was meant to be Tylee's 17th birthday, but she didn't update her social media accounts, as reported by People. When the children's remains were found months later in Chad Daybell's backyard, investigators said they could have been buried as early as September, per E! News.

Days after Tylee "disappeared," Lori's then-friend, Melanie Gibb, visited her in Idaho. Gibb recalled Tylee's strange absence, but Lori explained that the 16-year-old was away at college. Lori then told her something more unsettling: J.J. had turned into a zombie and was hampering her "mission" with Chad. She later lied to Gibb and said that J.J. was sent to live with his grandparents, according to the East Idaho News.

October 2, 2019: Brandon Boudreaux is shot in his driveway

Another strange shooting in the family occurred in 2019, but this time it wasn't fatal. The target was Brandon Boudreaux, the ex-husband of Lori Vallow's niece, Melani Pawlowski. Boudreaux was outside in his driveway when he recognized a Jeep that once belonged to the late Charles Vallow, as documented by ABC News. He also saw Lori's brother, Alex Cox, inside. Cox then reached over the backside of the Jeep, with witness reports describing it as having "no wheel affixed to the back" (via KSL Newsradio), and fired at Boudreaux's driver-side window.

Boudreaux took matters into his own hands and hired a private investigator to find the shooter. A police report filed later said that Cox, Lori, and Chad Daybell had been involved in the attack and retrofitted the Jeep, including tinting the windows, with the aim of murdering Boudreaux, according to Fox 10 Phoenix. Cox died a few months later in December, and prosecutors refused to charge Daybell with attempted murder. In May 2023, Lori was charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

The police report attributed the attempted murder due to Daybell's extremist ideas, since he thought that Boudreaux had a "dark soul," per Fox 10 Phoenix. Boudreaux himself thought that he was targeted for his $1 million life insurance policy, which would have gone to his ex-wife, Pawlowski. She denied his allegation (via ABC News).

October 19, 2019: Tammy Daybell is attacked and later dies

That same month, Tammy Daybell, Chad's wife, was attacked twice. On October 9, she called the police after being threatened with a paintball gun by a person wearing a ski mask, but she shrugged it off as a "prankster," as reported by the Rexburg Standard Journal. Two weeks later, she died in her home. Her son, Garth Daybell, recalled hearing a thump and his agitated father's calls for help, according to an interview with "48 Hours" (via CBS).

Garth said Chad appeared confused and devastated. Tammy and Chad had five children throughout their 30-year marriage, and they sided with their father over allegations that he murdered Tammy. Tammy had been suffering from an illness, and when authorities attributed Tammy's death to "natural causes," the children — not Chad — decided to forgo an autopsy. Garth and his siblings also didn't believe that their father cheated on Tammy because he said he never had a physical relationship with Lori Vallow. 

But Tammy was clearly meant to be out of the picture. Weeks before her death, Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow told friends that Tammy would die as part of a heavenly plan for them to be together without their spouses in the way, per the East Idaho News.

November 2019: Lori and Chad get married

As if nothing else had occurred that year, Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow married on November 5. The ceremony took place on a sunny beach in Kauai, Hawaii, and it featured a 45-minute photoshoot, according to Fox 10 Phoenix, and a $40 wedding ring Lori bought on Amazon weeks before Tammy Daybell died (per the East Idaho News).

As reported by ABC News, photos showed that besides the officiant, Daybell and Vallow were the only ones at the ceremony. They then went back home and reinvented history, telling people that daughter Tylee Ryan had died a year earlier. On other occasions, they claimed that Lori never had underaged children, according to the East Idaho News.

But things changed once J.J. Vallow and Tylee's grandparents grew concerned. They hadn't heard from J.J. in months (via E! News) and asked police to conduct a welfare check on the kids. On November 26, police learned that J.J. was not home, per CBS News. Meanwhile, Lori called friend Melanie Gibb in Arizona and told her to lie to police and say J.J. was with her. Lori then related the lie to the police herself.

The next day, police arrived at their home with a search warrant, but Lori and Chad were quick on their feet. They were gone for Hawaii, again.

December 2019: Lori and Chad become persons of interest

At this point, police believed J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan's lives were in danger, mostly due to Lori Daybell's lack of compliance with the investigation, according to People. And by now, the case started to receive national attention, per The Arizona Republic. The month began with investigators questioning their earlier conclusion about Tammy Daybell's death and exhumed her body for an autopsy on December 11 (via Fox 13 Now).

On December 20, the Rexburg Police Department and the FBI joined forces and announced that they were investigating Tammy Daybell's death as if it were connected to the disappearance of Lori's children. Tammy's son, Garth Daybell told "48 Hours" (via CBS) that the authorities informed him she died of "asphyxiation." Tammy and Chad Daybell's children believed that their father was innocent and asphyxiation didn't necessarily imply murder.

On December 21, Chad and Lori were named "persons of interest" for the disappearances and were wanted for questioning (per The Arizona Republic). Although they weren't named suspects, suspicion was growing. Rexburg police believed that Lori knew the location of her children and were confused by her reticence, as reported by the East Idaho News.

January 2020: Investigators are on the hunt for Lori and Chad

The investigation sped up in January 2020, especially since Lori and Chad Daybell were acting more suspiciously. On January 3, the FBI, the Rexburg Police, and the Fremont County Sheriff's office combed through every square foot of Chad's home, per reporting by the East Idaho News.

Per the outlet, the search came away with 43 items of interest that were sent to their forensics unit. Family members became involved as there was an increased sense of urgency. On January 7, J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan's grandparents, Kay and Larry Woodcock, held a press conference and announced a $20,000 award for their discovery, per the Post Register

On January 25, Lori was given an ultimatum. A protection order given on behalf of J.J. and Tylee required Lori to physically produce them to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare or the Rexburg Police, via the East Idaho News. A day later, Hawaii authorities issued a search warrant on Lori and Chad's home and car. Lori had five days to comply with the protection order and by January 30, she failed to do so, according to The New York Times.

February 2020: Lori is arrested

In February 2020, details emerged that possibly gave a new motive to Charles Vallow's murder. Just days after he was killed by her brother, Lori Vallow Daybell called Charles' life insurance providers and asked about the $1 million policy she thought she would receive. Little did she know that in February 2019, Charles had transferred the benefit to his sister, Kay Woodcock, according to her interview with the East Idaho News. He also wanted Woodcock to become J.J. Vallow's guardian. Woodcock believed that Lori hurt J.J., who was to benefit from the money, as revenge.

Lori's romantic excursion in Hawaii came to an end on February 20 when she was arrested for child desertion, along with a few misdemeanor charges, per The New York Times. She was held on a $5 million bond at a Kauai jail. After trying unsuccessfully to get her bond lowered, she waived her extradition rights and was sent back to Idaho in March, per the KTVB and NBC News.

June 2020: J.J. and Tylee's remains are found

The darkest moment of the Daybell saga came in June, as news hampered all hopes of discovering J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan alive. On June 9, investigators executed another search warrant on Chad Daybell's home, per the East Idaho News. They excavated his yard and found human remains underneath rocks and other materials meant to obscure them, according to Detective Ray Hermosillo (via ABC News). J.J. and Tylee's remains were buried separately. Prosecutor Rob Wood said during a court hearing that the way one of the bodies was buried was "particularly egregious" (via NBC News). 

Chad was on site as the excavation occurred and was watching from his car in his driveway, according to police reports (via ABC News). In what was likely an attempt to escape, Chad began to drive away from the neighborhood once the remains were found. Police arrested him shortly after and charged him with concealment of evidence and his bail was set at $1 million, as reported by The New York Times. The human remains weren't identified as that of Lori's children until June 13, per USA Today. On June 30, Lori was then charged with destruction or concealment of evidence, according to the East Idaho News.

July 2020 - Present: Prosecutors seek the death penalty

Many things occurred in the months following the damning discovery in Chad Daybell's backyard. Both Lori Daybell and Chad pled "not guilty" to the charges of destruction of evidence, per the East Idaho News. But it wasn't until May 24, 2021, when the long-awaited first-degree murder charges were finally brought against them for the deaths of J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan, along with the death of Tammy Daybell. The prosecution also found that Lori collected Social Security Survivor benefits and child care checks meant for her children for months without informing authorities about their own deaths, according to KTVB. And in September 2019, a month before her death, Tammy and Chad maximized her life insurance policy.

The financial overtones of Chad and Lori's crimes, along with the grotesque nature of it, led prosecutors to seek the death penalty. It was announced on August 5, 2021, that Chad qualified for the death penalty, although he pleaded not guilty to the murder charges, per NBC News. According to the outlet, the case against Lori was delayed in May because she was declared mentally unfit to stand trial and underwent treatment. But the following year, in May 2022, Lori Vallow Daybell received the same news as Chad Daybell: Prosecutors considered her a danger to society and were going after the maximum punishment, as reported by CBS News.

April-July 2023: Lori's trial, conviction, and sentencing

In April 2023, more than three years after the initial disappearance of her children, Lori Vallow Daybell finally had her day in court. Her trial began on April 3, 2023, and concluded on May 12, 2023, when a jury found her guilty on two counts of first-degree murder, one for each of her kids. Vallow Daybell had originally been indicted in May 2021 and at one point was found not competent enough to face trial, though she was later deemed okay. She was also on trial for conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the death of her husband's deceased ex-wife, for which she was also found guilty.

A month and a half later, on July 31, a judge revealed Vallow Daybell's fate, and it was not pretty. He gave her three life sentences on the murder charges, and she will never be eligible for parole. Originally, prosecutors had asked for the death penalty, but that was nixed by the judge shortly before the trial began. Roughly 60 people testified against Vallow Daybell during trial, but the saga is far from over.

Vallow Daybell's husband Chad Vallow Daybell faces trial on six different counts. He faces murder charges for both children and his ex-wife, in addition to conspiracy to commit all three murders, too. Chad Vallow Daybell still faces the possibility of the death penalty, unlike his wife, and his trial is slated to begin April 1, 2024.