Son confronts mom and testifies in doomsday plot murder trial
Colby Ryan, Lori Vallow Daybell’s eldest child, says his mother lied to him.
Boise, Idaho • The only surviving child of a woman accused of murdering her two youngest children and a romantic rival, confronted his mother in an emotional phone call on Tuesday about the death of his siblings in a trial that touched on allegations of evil spirits. Zombie kids and an additional out-of-state murder charge.
Prosecutors played the call shortly after Colby Ryan, Lori Vallow Daybell’s eldest child, took a stand in the bizarre Idaho triple murder case. The call came after the bodies of Ryan’s siblings Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan were found buried in an east Idaho yard in 2020 and after Vallow Daybell was jailed in connection with the crime.
It starts with Ryan asking his mother if she thought she could keep hiding from him.
“I’m not hiding, why do you think I’m hiding?” Vallow Daybell replies.
“Probably because you murdered my siblings! Maybe you should understand that,” Ryan continued before his mother cut him off:
“I haven’t. I’m sorry you feel that way,” she said.
The call lasted several minutes, with Vallow Daybell insisting that Ryan couldn’t know what had happened because he wasn’t there, but that JJ and Tylee were happy and everything would work out in the afterlife.
But Ryan said his mother lied to him multiple times while his brother and sister were missing, and someone even texted him from his sister’s phone as if they were from Tylee.
“Knowing they’re gone and you knew it! And my phone is texted by my little sister who isn’t even alive yet!” Ryan said, voice rising. “My poor brother, who is the cutest little child ever – to what end? You are telling me that this is God’s will: that my entire family, including my stepfather, be dead.”
Prosecutors say that Vallow Daybell and her fifth husband, Chad Daybell, held strange doomsday-related beliefs involving demonic possession and “zombies” to further their alleged plot to kill the children and his former wife, Tammy Daybell. They are also accused of collecting life insurance money and nearly $6,000 a month from their children’s Social Security and survivor benefits due to the deaths of their fathers: Tylee’s father, Joe Ryan, died in 2018, and JJ’s father, Charles Vallow, died in 2019.
JJ was 7 years old and Tylee was a few days short of her 17th birthday when the children were last seen alive in September 2019 and their bodies were found buried in Chad Daybell’s garden the following June. Tammy Daybell died in October 2019 — just two weeks before Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell married — and a later autopsy found she had suffocated.
Both have pleaded not guilty to murder, conspiracy and grand larceny and will be tried separately. Daybell’s trial is months away.
Vallow Daybell was also charged in Arizona in connection with the death of her fourth husband, Charles Vallow.
He was shot and killed by Vallow Daybell’s brother, Alex Cox, outside of his home in the Phoenix area in July 2019. Cox told police the shooting was in self-defense and was never charged in the case because he died of natural causes a year later. Vallow Daybell has not yet had an opportunity to plead in the Arizona case.
Early in the trial, former friends of Vallow Daybell told jurors about the couple’s alleged spiritual beliefs, including the idea that evil spirits could take over a person’s body, force out the person’s soul and turn them into a “zombie.” The only way to get rid of the evil spirit is to kill the body, former girlfriend Melanie Gibb told jurors.
Vallow Daybell called JJ and Tylee “zombies” several times before they died, Gibb told investigators.
The recorded call appeared to allude to some of Vallow Daybell’s beliefs, with Ryan telling his mother he prays for her and warning her against blasphemy.
In response, Vallow Daybell laughed.
“I love you, I always will. One day you will see and one day you will understand,” Vallow Daybell told her son on the call, saying his dead siblings are “fine.”
“They love me and they’re fine … They can judge me all day long,” she said.
Ryan wept on the witness stand as prosecutors showed him photos of Tylee and JJ, and told the jury how the text messages Tylee regularly sent him changed in tone in the weeks after her initial disappearance but before she was reported missing punctuation had changed.
He also said Tylee received Social Security benefits from the death of her father Joe Ryan in 2018 and sometimes sent him money, but after Tylee went missing, the funds came from another account under his mother’s name.
Charles Vallow’s death meant JJ was also receiving Social Security benefits, a special counsel for the Social Security Administration told jurors. Vallow Daybell never reported to the Social Security Administration that younger children were missing or died, Mark Saari said, even though federal law required her to do so.
The children collectively received about $3,800 a month, and Vallow Daybell also received about $1,900 in benefits after Charles Vallow’s death, Saari said.
The agency stopped all payments in January 2020 because the children went missing, he said.