BOISE, Idaho • Idaho mother Lori Vallow Daybell was sentenced Monday to life in prison without parole for the murders of her two youngest children and a romantic rival.
The case included bizarre claims that her son and daughter were zombies and that she was a goddess sent to usher in the biblical apocalypse.
Vallow Daybell was found guilty in May of killing her two youngest children, ages 7 and 16, and conspiring to murder Tammy Daybell, who was previously married to Vallow Daybell’s fifth husband.
The judge heard testimonies from several representatives of the victims, including Vallow Daybell’s only surviving son.
The husband, Chad Daybell, is awaiting trial on the same murder charge. Vallow Daybell is also facing two other trials in Arizona — one for conspiring with her brother to kill her fourth husband, Charles Vallow, and one for conspiring to kill her niece’s ex-husband. Charles Vallow was shot dead in 2019, but her niece’s ex survived an attack later in the year.
At the Fremont County Courthouse in St. Anthony, Idaho, Judge Steven W. Boyce heard testimonies from several victims’ representatives, including Colby Ryan, Vallow Daybell’s only surviving son.
“Tylee will never have the opportunity to be a mother, a wife, or have the career that was intended for her. JJ will never be able to grow and spread his light in the world like he did,” Ryan wrote in a statement read by District Attorney Rob Wood. “My siblings and my father earn so much more. I want them to be remembered for what they were and not just as a spectacle.”
Ryan also wrote about his own grief.
“I missed the opportunity to share life with the people I love the most. I lost my sister, father, brother and mother,” he wrote. “I pray for healing for all involved, including those who took the lives of everyone we loved.”
Tammy Daybell’s assassination plot and death left a deep rift in her family, Tammy’s sister Samantha Gwilliam said in court.
“Why? Why plan something so heinous? You are not exalted beings and your behavior makes you unfit to be,” Gwilliam said, referring to the unusual religious claims my family lost a beloved mother, sister and daughter.”
Tammy Daybell’s mother battled cancer and spent the last months of her life watching the murder trial, Gwilliam said. The family has also been stalked by the media and others, who have been drawn to “all that salacious scandal you’ve created,” Gwilliam told Vallow Daybell, who looked down as she sat between her defense attorneys.
“I miss my sister every day. I will mourn her and the loss of my mother every day of my life,” Gwilliam said. “As for you, I choose to forget you, and as I leave this courtroom today, I choose never to think of you again.”
Wood told the judge that Vallow Daybell should be sentenced to life without parole for each of the murders of Tylee and JJ and for conspiring to murder Tammy Daybell, and that she should serve them sequentially, not simultaneously. Under this sentencing recommendation, Vallow Daybell would never leave prison.
Wood cited the two cases in Arizona and the three murders in Idaho within six weeks.
“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 life sentence without parole.”
Vallow Daybell has been hospitalized multiple times to get her mentally fit for the trial. But Wood said there was no evidence her crimes were influenced by her “alleged mental illness” – which, according to reports cited by the court, includes a delusional disorder with grandiose features.
“The evidence that she knew right from wrong is overwhelming,” Wood said, noting testimonies from several people who said she lied to them about the deaths.
In July 2019, Vallow Daybell’s brother Alex Cox shot and killed her estranged husband Charles Vallow in a suburban Phoenix home. Cox told police he acted in self-defense. He was never charged and later died of natural causes.
Vallow Daybell was already in a relationship with Chad Daybell, a self-published author of doomsday-themed novels loosely based on Mormon teachings. She moved to Idaho with her children and brother to be closer to him.
The children were last seen alive in September 2019. A month later, police discovered they were missing after another family member became concerned. Their bodies were found buried in Chad Daybell’s garden the following summer.
At the trial, experts said Tylee appeared to have been stabbed and her body cremated before being buried in a pet cemetery, Wood said.
JJ’s head was wrapped in duct tape and plastic, causing him to suffocate, Wood said, speculating his last thoughts must have been “riddled with fear and betrayal.”
Tammy Daybell’s body was bruised, suggesting she fought back as she lay suffocated in her bed, Wood said.
Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow married in November 2019, about two weeks after the death of Daybell’s former wife, Tammy. Tammy Daybell was initially described as having died of natural causes, but a later autopsy revealed she had suffocated, authorities said.
Defense attorney Jim Archibald argued during the trial that there was no evidence linking Vallow Daybell to the murders, but plenty of evidence that she was a loving, caring mother whose life took a sharp turn when she met Chad Daybell met and fell in love with his “strange” apocalyptic religion claims. He suspected Daybell and Vallow Daybell’s brother, Alex Cox, to be responsible for the deaths.
Daybell told her that they had been married in several previous lives and that she was a “sexual goddess” who would help him save the world by gathering 144,000 followers so that Jesus could return, Archibald said.
Vallow Daybell’s former girlfriend, Melanie Gibb, testified at the trial that Vallow Daybell believed people in her life had been taken over by evil spirits and turned into “zombies,” including JJ and Tylee.