Lori Vallow’s best friend labelled her ‘misleading and manipulative’ during the first court hearing for the the ‘cult’ mom’s doomsday preacher husband Monday.
Chad Daybell faces charges over the deaths of Vallow’s children Tylee, 17, and JJ, seven. On Monday Vallow’s friend Melanie Gibb told the court how the couple ‘asked her to lie to police about missing son JJ’s whereabouts’ before he was found dead.
The testimony came during a preliminary hearing where a judge will decide whether there is enough evidence to hold Daybell for trial. Both Daybell and Vallow have both been charged with concealing evidence by hiding or disposing of the children’s bodies.
The kids vanished in September last year. Their bodies were discovered in June on a property owned by Daybell. It remains unclear how they died and prosecutors have not charged either Daybell or Vallow with murder.
Months after they vanished, Lori’s brother Alex Cox also died in mysterious circumstances. Police traced his cell phone data to get to the children’s bodies.
The first witness on Monday was Detective Ray Dennis Hermosillo from the Rexburg City PD. Lori’s friend Gibb later gave evidence, telling the court she visited Vallow the week JJ disappeared in September 2019. Gibb said she saw JJ in the home but that Vallow told her JJ ‘was acting with a lot of energy’ and that he would be going to live with his gran, Kay Woodcock. She said she did not see Tylee that weekend.
Gibb told the court she then received a call from Daybell two months later, at the end of November, telling her to not answer the phone to Rexburg police because Lori ‘was going to tell the police that JJ was with her’.
Chad Daybell in court in Idaho on Monday morning for the first day of his preliminary hearing
Lori Vallow is also in custody. Her kids JJ, 7, and Tylee, 17, vanished in September Their bodies were found earlier this summer
Gibb detailed how she received a call from Daybell asking her to not pick up the phone to Rexburg police.
She said: ‘I was in shock. I asked him if he was nervous and he said yes. Within an hour or two I heard from Lori.’ Gibb said Vallow then told her ‘everything is fine’, adding: ‘She was upbeat cheery, acting like nothing was wrong.’
Gibb said Vallow explained she had ‘told the police i had JJ’. Vallow is said to have lied to cops, telling them her young son was at the movies watching Frozen, according to Gobb.
She added: ‘She asked me to take a random picture of kids to make it look like it was JJ. She said she was trying to protect JJ from Kay [his grandmother] and family members.
‘I felt horrible, in shock, not ok with it. She told something to the police which was not true. I had a really bad feeling in my stomach and was shook up by it.’
Gibb said she did lie for the couple, telling police she had been with JJ but that he ‘was back with Lori’. She added: ‘Lori tells me her child is in danger. I’m very confused. Lori was misleading and manipulating me. She was tying to convince me that she and he was in danger. I was perplexed, I did not know what to do.’
The court then heard an audio recording, taken by Gibb, in which she asks Chad & Lori why she was told her JJ was with his grandmother. The couple tell Melanie JJ ‘is safe and he’s happy’ and it was to ‘protect’ him.
On June 10, officers were searching Daybell’s property where Hermosillo said he noticed a ‘4ft x 2ft area of sod’ that stuck out’. He said they dug up the soil, found three large white rocks and then panels of wood.
Once they were removed, he said he was hit with the stench of a decomposing body. ‘There was a black, what I can best describe as a plastic bag with a round object protruding through the dirt,’ he said.
Officers cut through the plastic bag and saw JJ’s hair, he said. ‘It appeared to be a small body, tightly wrapped in black plastic, covered in duct tape,’ he said.
Lori’s friend Melanie Gibb, pictured, gave evidence Monday afternoon
JJ Vallow’s grandpa Larry Woodcock breaks down in tears during evidence Monday
He told the court how he was asked to perform a search warrant at their home in November after being contacted by JJ’s grandparents.
Daybell, he said, told him JJ was with his grandparents and that he did not have the phone number for them.
‘I thought it as suspicious because I thought they had been close, based on my initial investigation. I asked Mr daybell if he had Lori Vallow’s phone number, he gave it.
‘He stated that he felt like I was accusing him of something,’ he said.
He then said he tried to make contact with Lori but that she didn’t answer. He tracked her down to an apartment but there was no sign of the children.
Hermosillo said officers then trailed Lori and Chad for months, to Hawaii, and eventually brought them back to the US.
The court also heard a recording of bodycam footage taken in November when Lori told police that JJ was being looked after by a friend of hers in Arizona.
She claimed she had ‘a brother’ – not thought to be Alex Cox – who she said was trying to ‘kill her’.
Vallow told the officers: ‘I have people looking for me and I don’t want to be found’.
In this aerial photo, investigators search for human remains at Chad Daybell’s residence in the 200 block of 1900 East in Salem, Idaho on June 9
Detective Ray Dennis Hermosillo from the Rexburg City PD was the first to take the stand
Daybell late last year married the kids´ mom, Lori Vallow Daybell, who’s charged with conspiring to help him keep the bodies hidden and faces the same hearing next week.
Both have pleaded not guilty.
Court documents suggest JJ was buried in a pet cemetery on Chad Daybell´s property and that Tylee´s remains were dismembered and burned. Investigators found the bodies by tracking the movements of Lori´s brother, Alex Cox, using cellphone data.
Cox is also dead, succumbing to an apparent blood clot in his lung at his Arizona home last December. Police Lt. Ron Ball in the small town of Rexburg, Idaho, wrote in court documents that Cox also was involved in the conspiracy to hide the kids´ remains.
Court documents in Lori Daybell´s criminal case include claims that the couple believed dark spirits, or ‘zombies,’ would possess people.
Melanie Gibb said her friend Lori told her at different times last year that both children had become zombies and that the couple believed the only way to rid a person of a dark spirit was by killing them so the person could be at rest in the afterlife.
Timeline of JJ and Tylee’s disappearance
July 11, 2019: Lori Vallow’s husband, Charles Vallow, is killed by her brother, Alex Cox, in Arizona. Police initially rule that Alex acted in self defense but reopen the case months later after the children are reported missing.
August: Lori moves children JJ and Tylee to Rexburg, Idaho, where her future husband Chad Daybell lives with his wife Tammy.
September 8: The last time Tylee is seen during a trip to Yellowstone National Park with Lori, JJ and Alex. In the following weeks she tells people who ask where Tylee is that she’s studying at Brigham Young University’s Idaho campus.
September 23: The last time JJ is seen at his school in Rexburg. Lori emailed the school the following day and claims she is moving the family to California for a new job.
October 2: Brandon Boudreaux, the ex-husband of Lori’s niece Melanie Pawlowski, is targeted in a drive-by shooting in Arizona. Police identify the vehicle carrying the shooter as a Jeep registered to Charles Vallow, Lori’s late husband.
October 19: Chad’s wife Tammy, 49, dies at their Idaho home. An obituary states that she passed away peacefully in her sleep. Chad declines an autopsy and her death is listed as natural causes.
October 25: A friend of Tylee receives a vague ‘miss you’ text from her phone but says that it didn’t sound like the teen.
November 5: Lori and Chad tie the knot on a beach in Kauai. Receipts indicate that Lori purchased her own wedding ring from Amazon nearly three weeks prior to Tammy’s death.
November 26: Out-of-state relatives ask Idaho police to perform a welfare check on JJ. Lori and Chad claim he is in Arizona with relatives and ask their friend, Melanie Gibb, to lie and say she took the boy there for Thanksgiving. Police soon learn that no one has seen JJ, or his older sister Tylee, since September.
November 27: Police execute a search warrant related to the children at Lori’s home and discover that she and Chad have fled Idaho.
December 11: Tammy’s body is exhumed from a Utah cemetery and her death is reclassified as suspicious.
December 12: Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, is found unresponsive in a bathroom in Arizona and dies. Months later an autopsy determines that he died of natural causes while he had the overdose drug Narcan in his system.
December 21: Rexburg police issue the first press release about JJ and Tylee, revealing they believe their disappearance could be linked to Tammy’s death and asking the public for information.
December 24: Lori and Chad issue a statement through an attorney saying they love their son and daughter and look forward to addressing ‘allegations once they have moved beyond speculation and rumor’.
December 30: Police accuse Lori and Chad of lying to investigators and say they believe the couple know where the kids are or what happened to them.
January 3, 2020: Police search Chad’s home in Salem and remove 43 items, including tech devices and journals. They also comb over sections of the snow-covered yard with rakes and metal detectors.
January 26: Lori and Chad are seen for the first time in months as police serve them with two search warrants in Kauai. Lori is also served with a court order to produce the children to authorities in Idaho in five days. The couple are approached by the media while officers serve the documents and refuse to say anything about the children.
January 30: Lori misses the court deadline to produce the children to Idaho authorities.
February 20: Lori is arrested in Kauai and charged with two felony counts for desertion and nonsupport of dependent children, and one misdemeanor count each for resisting and obstructing an officer, solicitation of a crime, and contempt of court.
March 5: Lori is extradited to Idaho, where she is held on $1million bond at Madison County Jail.
March 17: Lori professes her innocence in a statement through her attorney as two other members of her defense team quit and the judge removes himself from the case.
March 24: Court documents filed in the divorce of Lori’s niece Melani and her husband Brandon Boudreaux allege that Lori told people she believed her children were zombies before they disappeared.
April 9: Authorities reveal they are investigating Lori and Chad for murder, attempted murder and conspiracy in connection with Tammy’s death.
May 25: Idaho police issue a statement expressing hope that the kids will be found safe on what would have been JJ’s eighth birthday.
June 9: Police search Chad’s home in Salem for the second time and discover human remains in the backyard. Chad is taken into police custody and charged with destruction or concealment of evidence.
June 29: Police search Chad’s home in Salem for a third time. Lori faces two additional counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence.
June 30: Lori appears in court on the new charges. Chad faces two additional counts of conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence.
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